(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "If - Worlds Of Science Fiction v02n03 (1953-07.Quinn)(AKv1.0)"

IrdRLDS of SClicE FICTIO^ 



I JULY 1953 • 35 CENTS 



^/ 



(3-) 




1 



I 



/ 



^// 



« 



Ir JACK VANCE • WALT SHELDON • H. B. FYFE 




Mi^^ 



M 





■-<. 



jsm5> 



_SJB 



MERCURY — the smallest, hottest and innermost planet in our system — is 
probable completely airless. Jagged cliffs rise thousands of feet above a 
surface pockmarked with volcanic craters. The men pictured are scaling 
one of the less formidable peaks, while their ship lies in the valley far be- 
low. A Mercurian day is of the some duration as its year — 88 Earth days. 



f 



WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 

JULY 1953 
All Stories New and Complete 

Editor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Associate Editor: LARRY T. SHAW 

Staff Artist: ED VALIGURSKY 

Cover by Ken Fagg: A Volcanic Eruption 
on Titan, Sixth Moon of Saturn 
2iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii>iiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiniiiiiniiiiiitiii)iiit]iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitiiiiiiitiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitiiiiiiiitiiiittiiiiiiiiitiiniiiiiiiiiiiiriii]ii!! 

I NOVELETTES | 

I SMMBAK by Jock Vance 4 I 

I BRINK OF MADNESS by Walt Sheldon 44 | 

E S 

I SHORT STORIES | 

I IRRESISTIBLE WEAPON by H. B. Fyfe 26 I 

I A BOTTLE OF OLD WINE by Richard O. Lewis 32 f 

I CELEBRITY by James McKlmmey, Jr. 41 | 

I ONE MARTIAN AFTERNOON by Tom Leahy 75 I 

I WEAK ON SQUARE ROOTS by Russell Burton 82 I 

i THE LONELY ONES by Edward W. Ludwig 91 I 

I PROGRESS REPORT by Mark Clifton and Alex I 

I Apostolides 102 | 

I THE GUINEA PIGS by S. A. Lombino ITS I 

s s 

I FEATURES j 

I A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 2 i 

I PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 80 I 

I SCIENCE BRIEFS 89 I 

I THE POSTMAN COMETH 119 | 

I COVER PICTORIAL: Venus and Mercury | 

niniiitiiiiiiiiiiiHiuiiiiMitiiiiiiiuiiiiiiiiuiuiiiiiniiiiHiiiiiniiiuiiiiiiiiiMiiuiiiniuiiiuiHiiiMiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiitninii^ 

IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Company, Inc. Volume 2, No. 3. 
Copyright 1953 by Quinn Publishing Co., Inc. Office of publication, 8 Lord Street, 
Buffalo, New York. Entered as Second Class Matter at Post Office, Buffalo, New 
York, Subscription $3.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and Possessions; Canada $4 for 32 
issues; elsewhere $4.50. Allow four weeks for change of address. All stories appear- 
ing in this magazine are fiction; any similarity to actual persons is coincidental. 
Not responsible for unsolicited artwork or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next issue on sale July 10th 




A CHAT WITH 
THE EDITOR 

SOMETIMES a body gets to won- 
dering just what progress really 
is. In this case, my confusion is 
about one of those new, super-duper 
fountain pens, made by one of 
America's oldest pen and pencil 
makers. The one I have in mind is 
right on the desk before me. It's a 
desk pen — a pretty thing, black, 
onyx-like base, magnetic marble, 
which holds the penholder in any 
position, and a slim, sleek, black pen 
with a chrome band around the 
middle. It has a truly graceful, fu- 
turistic, pace-setting feel and ap- 
pearance. But, boy-oh-boy-oh-boy! 
That pretty thing is more trouble to 
fill than an old-fashioned Saturday- 
night-bath tub with an old oaken 
bucket from an old time, pulley- 
working dug-well. 

You've no doubt had experiences 
with one like it. If you haven't, 
here's how it works: First, you gotta 



have special ink for it — made by the 
maker of the pen. Then, you un- 
screw the top of the pen and find 
a plunger. This plunger is special. 
No once-down-and-release like the 
good old-time pens of fifteen, twen- 
ty or twenty-five years ago. This 
special, super plunger requires nine 
plunges, holding the point sub- 
merged all the while. And each time 
you "plunge", you gotta allow a 
couple seconds on the release for it 
to suck in ink. The ninth time, you 
remove it from the ink and then 
release the plunger. No variations, 
now, and no short cuts! Should you 
lose count because your phone rings 
or something, you have to start all 
over from scratch. You can't fool 
that pen! 

Oh, you get used to it after a 
while. All you gotta do is practice. 
Like on Saturdays and Sundays and 
during your lunch hour. You grad- 
ually become quite proficient. I've 
had mine for two years and I'm 
pretty good. I average a penful of 
ink three out of every five times I 
perform the operation. 

And yet, no matter how assinine 
I think it is, I reckon it is probably 
better than the old fashioned type 
that had a little lever or plunger, 
which you worked once — with your 
eyes shut and without mumbling a 
count and using anybody's ink — and 
you had a penful that would write a 
long time. After all, that was much 
too simple. Oh, yes, I've also got a 
pocket job, with a super, trick-re- 
verse vacuum method of filling, that 
doesn't take in as much ink as any 
self-respecting wreck you use to fill 
out money order forms in post of- 
fices around the country. But it 
looks nice when I take it out of my 



pocket and let it rest on the table 
while I borrow somebody else's 
equipment to write with. 

IT WAS Mark Twain who once 
said, "Everybody complains about 
the weather, but nobody does any- 
thing about it". That pretty much 
applies to this thing we call "time". 
You've heard that familiar gripe: 
"Where the heck does the time go?" 
Or, "How time flies!" Or, "There 
ought to be more than 24 hours in 
a day!" Anyhow, you get the idea. 
But did you ever stop to think that 
we're putting the cart before the 
horse. Time ain't flying at all. We're 
flying. "Time" is an invention of 
our civilization. It is relative to ac- 
tion, movement, music, geology, 
mathematics, life, etc., etc. Out in 
space, out in the infinite, there is no 
time — as we know it. Let the earth 
change its rotation and we'd have 
a heck of a "time" with our clocks, 
calendars, sundials, egg cookers, etc. 
Anyhow, I suppose this thought was 
suggested by a line I remembered 
from a swell movie I saw recently. 
The movie was Breaking Through 
the Sound Barrier, and the scene is 
that of the test pilot looking through 
a telescope, stationed in the private 
observatory of a manufacturer of jet 
planes. After a while of intense 
watching, he says something to the 
effect that in those millions of light 
years out there, they are living in 
the past. The manufacturer, sitting 
nearby, hears him and looks up. 
There is a dreamy expression on his 
face. "My boy," he said, "out there 
is the past, the present, and the fu- 
ture." 

We make our own time. So it is 
we who fly. 



Breaking Through the Sound 
Barrier, incidentally, is a picture 
anyone interested in science, factual 
or fictional, will enjoy seeing. It has 
all the basic emotions, plus some 
new ones. I've been up in planes 
doing over 300 miles per hour, at 
over 20,000 feet, but that was no- 
where near the thrill of watching 
this movie. The camera takes you 
through phases of man's breathless 
quest for speed, it gives you a look- 
in on the development of mighty 
engines, and it introduces you to a 
philosophical equation of man, na- 
ture and machinery. And when the 
camera takes you inside a plane 
screaming through space 40,000 feet 
up, hurtling life and machine 
against the sound barrier — well it's 
the next best thing to actually being 
up there. In fact, it's better. Per- 
sonally, you couldn't get me up 
there with a million dollar life in- 
surance policy. Watching it from a 
safe, comfortable seat in a movie 
house was enough for me. 



INCIDENTALLY, the real fun of 
flying seems to me to be in these 
small personal jobs. A friend of 
mine has a small four-seater Stin- 
son and the time he took me up I 
behaved like a three-year old on 
his first ride on a merry-go-round. 
Flying at 90 to 100 miles per hour 
at 500 to 1000 feet gives you the 
excitement of contrast. You follow 
roads, rivers, railroad tracks, pick 
out familiar landmarks; you see life 
below with a fascinating perspective 
which is never possible in the big, 
fast planes. Besides, to reiterate, I 
never am in 600-miles-per-hour 
worth of hurry. — jlq 



Wilbur Murphy sought romance, excitement, and an impossi- 
ble Horseman of Space. With polite smiles, the planet frus- 
trated him at every turn — until he found them all the hard way! 



SJAMBAK 

By Jack Vance 



lllusfrate^ by VIRGII. FINLAY 



HOWARD FRAYBERG, Pro- 
duction Director of Know Your 
Universe!, was a man of sudden un- 
predictable moods; and Sam Cat- 
lin, the show's Continuity Editor, 
had learned to expect the worst. 

"Sam," said Frayberg, "regarding 
the show last night. . ." He paused 
to seek the proper words, and Cat- 
lin relaxed. Frayberg's frame of 
mind was merely critical. "Sam, 
we're in a rut. What's worse, the 
show's dull!" 

Sam Catlin shrugged, not com- 
mitting himself. 

"Seaweed Processors of Alphard 
IX — who cares about seaweed?" 

"It's factual stuff," said Sam, de- 
fensive but not wanting to go too 
far out on a limb. "We bring 'em 
everything — color, fact, romance, 
sight, sound, smell. . . . Next week, 
it's the Ball Expedition to the Mix- 
tup Mountains on Gropus." 

Frayberg leaned forward. "Sam, 
we're working the wrong slant on 
this stufT. . , . We've got to loosen 



up, sock 'em! Shift our ground! 
Give 'em the old human angle — 
glamor, mystery, thrills!" 

Sam Catlin curled his lips. "I got 
just what you want." 

"Yeah? Show me." 

Catlin reached into his waste 
basket. "I filed this just ten minutes 
ago. . . ." He smoothed out the 
pages. " 'Sequence idea, by Wilbur 
Murphy. Investigate "Horseman of 
Space," the man who rides up to 
meet incoming spaceships'." 

Frayberg tilted his head to the 
side. "Rides up on a horse?" 

"That's what Wilbur Murphy 
says." 

"How far up?" 

"Does it make any difference?" 

"No — I guess not." 

"Well, for your information, it's 
up ten thousand, twenty thousand 
miles. He waves to the pilot, takes 
off his hat to the passengers, then 
rides back down." 

"And where does all this take 
place?" 



JACK VANCE 



"On— on— " Catlin frowned. "I 
can write it, but I can't pronounce 
it." He printed on his scratch- 
screen: CIRGAMESg. 

"Sirgamesk," read Frayberg. 

Catlin shook his head. "That's 
what it looks Hke — but those con- 
sonants are all aspirated gutturals. 
It's more like 'Hrrghameshgrrh'." 

"Where did Murphy get this 
tip?" 

"I didn't bother to ask." 

"Well," mused Frayberg, "we 
could always do a show on strange 
superstitions. Is Murphy around?" 

"He's explaining his expense ac- 
count to Shifkin." 

"Get him in here; let's talk to 
him." 



WILBUR MURPHY had a 
blond crew-cut, a broad 
freckled nose, and a serious side- 
long squint. He looked from his 
crumpled sequence idea to Catlin 
and Frayberg. "Didn't like it, eh?" 

"We thought the emphasis should 
be a little different," explained Cat- 
lin. "Instead of 'The Space Horse- 
man,' we'd give it the working title, 
'Odd Superstitions of Hrrghame- 
shgrrh'." 

"Oh, hell!" said Frayberg. "Call 
it Sirgamesk." 

"Anyway," said Catlin, "that's 
the angle." 

"But it's not superstition," said 
Murphy. 

"Oh, come, Wilbur. . ." 

"I got this for sheer sober-sided 
fact. A man rides a horse up to 
meet the incoming ships!" 

"Where did you get this wild 
fable?" 

"My brother-in-law is purser 



on the Celestial Traveller. At Rik- 
er's Planet they make connection 
with the feeder line out of Cirga- 
mesg." 

"Wait a minute," said Catlin. 
"How did you pronounce that?" 

"Cirgamesg. The steward on the 
shuttle-ship gave out this story, and 
my brother-in-law passed it along to 
me." 

"Somebody's pulling somebody's 
leg." 

"My brother-in-law wasn't, and 
the steward was cold sober." 

"They've been eating bhang. 
Sirgamesk is a Javanese planet, 
isn't it?" 

"Javanese, Arab, Malay." 

"Then they took a bhang supply 
with them, and hashish, chat, and 
a few other sociable herbs." 

"Well, this horseman isn't any 
drug-dream." 

"No? What is it?" 

"So far as I know it's a man on 
a horse." 

"Ten thousand miles up? In a 
vacuum?" 

"Exactly." 

"No space-suit?" 

"That's the story." 

Catlin and Frayberg looked at 
puch otripr 

"Well, Wilbur," Catlin began. 

Frayberg interrupted. "What we 
can use, Wilbur, is a sequence on 
Sirgamesk superstition. Emphasis 
on voodoo or witchcraft — naked 
girls dancing — stuff with roots in 
Earth, but now typically Sirgamesk. 
Lots of color. Secret rite stuff. . ." 

"Not much room on Cirgamesc 
for secret rites." 

"It's a big planet, isn't it?" 

"Not quite as big as Mars. 
There's no atmosphere. The settlers 



SJAMBAK 



live in mountain valleys, with air- 
tight lids over 'em." 

Catlin flipped the pages of 
Thumbnail Sketches of the Inhabit- 
ed Worlds. "Says here there's 
ancient ruins millions of years old. 
When the atmosphere went, the 
population went with it." 

Frayberg became animated. 
"There's lots of material out there! 
Go get it, Wilbur! Life! Sex! Ex- 
citement! Mystery!" 

"Okay," said Wilbur Murphy. 

"But lay off this horseman-in- 
space. There is a limit to public 
credulity, and don't you let any- 
one tell you different." 



CIRGAMESC hung outside the 
port, twenty thousand miles 
ahead. The steward leaned over 
Wilbur Murphy's shoulder and 
pointed a long brown finger. "It 
was right out there, sir. He came 
riding up — " 

"What kind of a man was it? 
Strange looking?" 

"No. He was Cirgameski." 

"Oh. You saw him with your 
own eyes, eh?" 

The steward bowed, and his loose 
white mantle fell forward. "Exact- 
ly, sir." 

"No helmet, no space-sui-t?" 

"He wore a short Singhalut vest 
and pantaloons and a yellow Had- 
rasi hat. No more." 

"And the horse?" 

"Ah, the horse! There's a dif- 
ferent matter." 

"Different how?" 

"I can't describe the horse. I was 
intent on the man." 

"Did you recognize him?" 

"By the brow of Lord Allah, it's 



well not to look too closely when 
such matters occur." 

"Then — you did recognize him!" 

"I must .be at my task, sir." 

Murphy frowned in vexation at 
the steward's retreating back, then 
bent over his camera to check the 
tape-feed. If anything appeared 
now, and his eyes could see it, the 
two-hundred million audience of 
Know Your Universe! could see it 
with him. 

When he looked up, Murphy 
made a frantic grab for the stan- 
chion, then relaxed. Cirgamesg had 
taken the Great Twitch. It was an 
illusion, a psychological quirk. One 
instant the planet lay ahead; then 
a man winked or turned away, and 
when he looked back, "ahead" had 
become "below"; the planet had 
swung an astonishing ninety degrees 
across the sky, and they were fall- 
ing! 

Murphy leaned against the stan- 
chion. " 'The Great Twitch' ," he 
muttered to himself, "I'd like to 
get that on two hundred million 
screens!" 

Several hours passed. CirgamesQ 
grew. The Sampan Range rose up 
like a dark scab; the valley sultan- 
ates of Singhalut, Hadra, New 
Batavia, and Boeng-Bohot showed 
like glistening chicken- tracks ; the 
Great Rift Colony of Sundeman 
stretched down through the foot- 
hills like the trail of a slug. 

A loudspeaker voice rattled the 
ship. "Attention passengers for 
Singhalut and other points on Cir- 
gamesg! Kindly prepare your lug- 
gage for disembarkation. Customs 
at Singhalut are extremely thor- 
ough. Passengers are warned to take 



8 



JACK VANCE 



no weapons, drugs or explosives 
ashore. This is important!" 



THE WARNING turned out to 
be an understatement. Murphy 
was plied with questions. He suf- 
fered search of an intimate nature. 
He was three-dimensionally X- 
rayed with a range of frequencies 
calculated to excite fluorescence in 
whatever object he might have 
secreted in his stomach, in a hollow 
bone, or under a layer of flesh. 

His luggage was explored with 
similar minute attention, and 
Murphy rescued his cameras with 
difficulty. "What're you so damn 
anxious about? I don't have drugs; 
I don't have contraband. . ." 

"It's guns, your excellency. Guns, 
weapons, explosives. . ." 

"I don't have any guns." 

"But these objects here?" 

"They're cameras. They record 
pictures and sounds and smells." 

The inspector seized the cases 
with a glittering smile of triumph. 
"They resemble no cameras of my 
experience; I fear I shall have to 
impound. . ." 

A young man in loose white 
pantaloons, a pink vest, pale green 
cravat and a complex black turban 
strolled up. The inspector made a 
swift obeisance, with arms spread 
wide. "Excellency." 

The young man raised two fin- 
gers. "You may find it possible to 
spare Mr. Murphy any unnecessary 
formality." 

"As your Excellency recom- 
mends. . ." The inspector nimbly 
repacked Murphy's belongings, 
while the young man looked on be- 
nignly. 



Murphy covertly inspected his 
face. The skin was smooth, the color 
of the rising moon; the eyes were 
narrow, dark, superficially placid. 
The effect was of silken punctilio 
with hot ruby blood close beneath. 

Satisfied with the inspector's 
zeal, he turned to Murphy. "Allow 
me to introduce myself, Tuan 
Murphy. I am Ali-Tomas, of the 
House of Singhalut, and my father 
the Sultan begs you to accept our 
poor hospitality." 

"Why, thank you," said Murphy. 
"This is a very pleasant surprise." 

"If you will allow me to conduct 
you. . ." He turned to the inspector. 
"Mr. Murphy's luggage to the 
palace." 



MURPHY accompanied Ali- 
Tomas into the outside light, 
fitting his own quick step to the 
prince's feline saunter. This is com- 
ing it pretty soft, he said to himself. 
I'll have a magnificent suite, with 
bowls of fruit and gin pahits, not 
to mention two or three silken girls 
with skin like rich cream bringing 
me towels in the shower. . . Well, 
well, well, it's not so bad working 
for Know Your Universe! SiheT all! 
I suppose I ought to unlimber my 
camera. . . . 

Prince Ali-Tomas watched him 
with interest. "And what is the 
audience of Know Your Uni- 
verse!?" 

"We call 'em 'participants'." 

"Expressive. And how many 
participants do you serve?" 

"Oh, the Bowdler Index rises and 
falls. We've got about two hundred 
million screens, with five hundred 
million participants." 



SJAMBAK 



"Fascinating! And tell me — how 
do you record smells?" 

Murphy displayed the odor re- 
corder on the side of the camera, 
with its gelatinous track which fixed 
the molecular design. 

"And the odors recreated — they 
are like the originals?" 

"Pretty close. Never exact, but 
none of the participants knows the 
difference. Sometimes the synthetic 
odor is an improvement." 

"Astounding!" murmured the 
prince. 

"And sometimes. . . Well, Carson 
Tenlake went out to get the myrrh- 
blossoms on Venus. It was a hot 
day — as days usually are on Venus 
— and a long climb. When the show 
was run off, there was more smell 
of Carson than of flowers." 

Prince Ali-Tomas laughed polite- 
ly. "We turn through here." 

They came out into a compound 
paved with red, green and white 
tiles. Beneath the valley roof was a 
sinuous trough, full of haze and 
warmth and golden light. As far in 
either direction as the eye could 
reach, the hillsides were terraced, 
barred in various shades of green. 
Spattering the valley floor were tall 
canvas pavilions, tents, booths, shel- 
ters. 

"Naturally," said Prince Ali- 
Tomas, "we hope that you and your 
participants will enjoy Singhalut. 
It is a truism that, in order to im- 
port, we must export; we wish to 
encourage a pleasurable response 
to the 'Made in Singhalut' tag on 
our batiks, carvings, lacquers." 

They rolled quietly across the 
square in a surface-car displaying 
the House emblem. Murphy rested 
against deep, cool cushions. "Your 



inspectors are pretty careful about 
weapons." 

Ali-Tomas smiled complacently. 
"Our existence is ordered and 
peaceful. You may be familiar with 
the concept of adak?" 

"I don't think so." 

"A word, an idea from old Earth. 
Every living act is ordered by ritu- 
al. But our heritage is passionate — 
and when unyielding adak stands 
in the way of an irresistible emo- 
tion, there is turbulence, sometimes 
even killing." 

"An amok." 

"Exactly. It is as well that the 
amok has no weapons other than 
his knife. Otherwise he would kill 
twenty where now he kills one." 

The car rolled along a narrow 
avenue, scattering pedestrians to 
either side like the bow of a boat 
spreading foam. The men wore 
loose white pantaloons and a short 
open vest; the women wore only 
the pantaloons. 

"Handsome set of people," re- 
marked Murphy. 

Ali-Tomas again smiled compla- 
cently. "I'm sure Singhalut will 
present an inspiring and beautiful 
spectacle for your program." 

Murphy remembered the keynote 
to Howard Frayberg's instructions: 
"Excitement! Sex! Mystery!" Fray- 
berg cared little for inspiration or 
beauty. "I imagine," he said casual- 
ly, "that you celebrate a number of 
interesting festivals? Colorful danc- 
ing? Unique customs?" 

Ali-Tomas shook his head. "To 
the contrary. We left our super- 
stitions and ancestor-worship back 
on Earth. We are quiet Moham- 
medans and indulge in very little 
festivity. Perhaps here is the reason 



10 



JACK VANCE 



for amoks and sjambaks.'* 

"Sjambaks?" 

"We are not proud of them. You 
will hear sly rumor, and it is better 
that I arm you beforehand with 
truth." 

"What is a sjambak?" 

"They are bandits, flouters of 
authority. I will show you one pres- 
ently." 

"I heard," said Murphy, "of a 
man riding a horse up to meet the 
spaceships. What would account 
for a story like that?" 

"It can have no possible basis," 
said Prince Ali-Tomas. "We have 
no horses on Cirgamesg. None 
whatever." 

"But. . ." 

"The veriest idle talk. Such non- 
sense will have no interest for your 
intelligent participants." 

The car rolled into a square a 
hundreds yards on a side, lined 
with luxuriant banana palms. Op- 
posite was an enormous pavilion of 
gold and violet silk, with a dozen 
peaked gables casting various 
changing sheens. In the center of 
the square a twenty-foot pole sup- 
ported a cage about two feet wide, 
three feet long, and four feet high. 

Inside this cage crouched a naked 
man. 

The car rolled past. Prince Ali- 
Tomas waved an idle hand. The 
caged man glared down from 
bloodshot eyes. "That," said Ali- 
Tomas, "is a sjambak. As you see," 
a faint note of apology entered his 
voice, "we attempt to discourage 
them." 

"What's that metal object on his 
chest?" 

"The mark of his trade. By that 
you may know all sjambak. In 



these unsettled times only we of the 
House may cover our chests — all 
others must show themselves and 
declare themselves true Singhalusi." 

Murphy said tentatively, "I must 
come back here and photograph 
that cage." 

Ali-Tomas smilingly shook his 
head. "I will show you our farms, 
our vines and orchards. Your par- 
ticipants will enjoy these; they have 
no interest in the dolor of an ig- 
noble sjambak." 

"Well," said Murphy, "our aim 
is a well-rounded production. We 
want to show the farmers at work, 
the members of the great House at 
their responsibilities, as well as the 
deserved fate of wrongdoers." 

"Exactly. For every sjambak 
there are ten thousand industrious 
Singhalusi. It follows then that only 
one ten-thousandth part of your 
film should be devoted to this in- 
famous minority." 

"About three-tenths of a second, 
eh?" 

"No more than they deserve." 

"You don't know my Production 
Director. His name is Howard 
Frayberg, and. . ."• 

HOWARD FRAYBERG was 
deep in conference with Sam 
Catlin, under the influence of what 
Catlin called his philosophic kick. 
It was the phase which Catlin 
feared most. 

"Sam," said Frayberg, "do you 

know the danger of this business?" 

"Ulcers," Catlin replied prompt- 

ly- 

Frayberg shook his head. "We've 
got an occupational disease to fight 
— progressive mental myopia." 



SJAMBAK 

"Speak for yourself," said Catlin. 

"Consider. We sit in this office. 
We think we know what kind of 
show we want. We send out our 
staff to get it. We're signing the 
checks, so back it comes the way 
we asked for it. We look at it, hear 
it, smell it — and pretty soon we be- 
lieve it : our version of the universe, 
full-blown from our brains like 
Minerva stepping out of Zeus. You 
see what I mean?" 

"I understand the words." 

"We've got our own picture of 
what's going on. We ask for it, we 
get it. It builds up and up — and 
finally we're like mice in a trap 
built of our own ideas. We canni- 
balize our own brains." 

"Nobody'U ever accuse you of be- 
ing stingy with a metaphor." 

"Sam, let's have the truth. How 
many times have you been off 
Earth?" 

"I went to Mars once. And I 
spent a couple of weeks at Aristil- 
lus Resort on the Moon." 

Frayberg leaned back in his chair 
as if shocked. "And we're supposed 
to be a couple of learned planet- 
ologists !" 

Catlin made grumbling noise in 
his throat. "I haven't been around 
the zodiac, so what? You sneezed 
a few minutes ago and I said 
gesundheit, but I don't have any 
doctor's degree." 

"There comes a time in a man's 
life," said Frayberg, "when he wants 
to take stock, get a new perspec- 
tive." 

"Relax, Howard, relax." 

"In our case it means taking out 
our preconceived ideas, looking at 
them, checking our illusions against 
reality." 



11 

"Are you serious about this?" 

"Another thing," said Frayberg, 
"I want to check up a little. Shif- 
kin says the expense accounts are 
frightful. But he can't fight it. 
When Keeler says he paid ten 
munits for a loaf of bread on Nek- 
kar IV, who's gonna call him on 
it?" 

"Hell, let him eat bread! That's 
cheaper than making a safari 
around the cluster, spot-checking 
the super-markets." 

Frayberg paid no heed. He 
touched a button; a three foot 
sphere full of glistening motes ap- 
peared. Earth was at the center, 
with thin red lines, the scheduled 
space-ship routes, radiating out in 
all directions. 

"Let's see what kind of circle 
we can make," said Frayberg. 
"Gower's here at Canopus, Keeler's 
over here at Blue Moon, Wilbur 
Murphy's at Sirgamesk. . ." 

"Don't forget," muttered Cat- 
lin, "we got a show to put on." 

"We've got material for a year," 
scoffed Frayberg. "Get hold of 
Space-Lines. We'll start with Sir- 
gamesk, and see wha't Wilbur 
Murphy's up to." 



WILBUR MURPHY was be- 
ing presented to the Sultan of 
Singhalut by the Prince Ali-Tomas. 
The Sultan, a small mild man of 
seventy, sat crosslegged on an enor- 
mous pink and green air-cushion. 
"Be at your ease, Mr. Murphy. We 
dispense with as much protocol here 
as practicable." The Sultan had a 
dry clipped voice and the air of a 
rather harassed corporation execu- 
tive. "I understand you represent 



t2 



JACK VANCE 



Earth-Central Home Screen Net- 
work?" 

"I'm a staff photographer for the 
Know Your Universe! show." 

"We export a great deal to 
Earth," mused the Sultan, "but not 
as much as we'd like. We're very 
pleased with your interest in us, 
and naturally we want to help you 
in every way possible. Tomorrow 
the Keeper of the Archives will 
present a series of charts analyzing 
our economy. Ali-Tomis shall per- 
sonally conduct you through the 
fish-hatcheries. We want you to 
know we're doing a great job out 
here on Singhalut." 

"I'm sure you are," said Murphy 
uncomfortably. "However, that 
isn't quite the stufT I want." 

"No? Just where do your desires 
lie?" 

Ali-Tomas said delicately. "Mr. 
Murphy took a rather profound in- 
terest in the sjambak displayed in 
the square." 

"Oh. And you explained that 
these renegades could hold no in- 
terest for serious students of our 
planet?" 

Murphy started to explain that 
clustered around two hundred mil- 
lion screens tuned to Know Your 
Universe! were four or five hun- 
dred million participants, the 
greater part of them neither serious 
nor students. The Sultan cut in 
decisively. "I will now impart some- 
thing truly interesting. We Sing- 
halusi are making preparations to 
reclaim four more valleys, with an 
added area of six hundred thou- 
sand acres! I shall put my physio- 
graphic models at your disposal; 
you may use them to the fullest ex- 
tent!" 



"I'll be pleased for the oppor- 
tunity," declared Murphy. "But to- 
morrow I'd like to prowl around 
the valley, meet your people, ob- 
serve their customs, religious rites, 
courtships, funerals. . ." 

The Sultan pulled a sour face. 
"We are ditch-water dull. Festivals 
are celebrated quietly in the home; 
there is small religious fervor; 
courtships are consummated by 
family contract. I fear you will find 
little sensational material here in 
Singhalut." 

"You have no temple dances?" 
asked Murphy. "No fire-walkers, 
snake-charmers — voodoo?" 

The Sultan smiled patronizingly. 
"We came out here to Cirgamesg to 
escape the ancient superstitions. 
Our lives are calm, orderly. Even 
the amoks have practically disap- 
peared. 

"But the sjambaks — " 

"Negligible." 

"Well," said Murphy, "I'd like 
to visit some of these ancient 
cities." 

"I advise against it," declared 
the Sultan. "They are shards, 
weathered stone. There are no in- 
scriptions, no art. There is no stim- 
ulation in dead stone. Now. To- 
morrow I will hear a report on hy- 
brid soybean plantings in the Up- 
per Kam District. You will want to 
be present." 



MURPHY'S SUITE matched 
or even excelled his expecta- 
tion. He had four rooms and a pri- 
vate garden enclosed by a thicket 
of bamboo. His bathroom walls 
were slabs of glossy actinolite, in- 
laid with cinnabar, jade, galena. 



SJAMBAK 



13 



pyrite and blue malachite, in rep- 
resentations of fantastic birds. His 
bedroom was a tent thirty feet high. 
Two walls were dark green fabric ; 
a third was golden rust; the fourth 
opened upon the private garden. 

Murphy's bed was a pink and 
yellow creation ten feet square, soft 
as cobweb, smelling of rose sandal- 
wood. Carved black lacquer tubs 
held fruit; two dozen wines, liq- 
uors, syrups, essences flowed at a 
touch from as many ebony spigots. 

The garden centered on a pool of 
coo] water, very pleasant in the 
hothouse climate of Singhalut. The 
only shortcoming was the lack of 
the lovely young servitors Murphy 
had envisioned. He took it upon 
himself to repair this lack, and in a 
shady wine-house behind the pal- 
ace, called the Barangipan, he 
made the acquaintance of a girl- 
musician named Soek Panjoebang. 
He found her enticing tones of 
quavering sweetness from the 
gamelan, an instrument well-loved 
in Old Bali. Soek Panjoebang had 
the delicate features and transpar- 
ent skin of Sumatra, the supple 
long limbs of Arabia and in a pair 
of wide and golden eyes a heritage 
from somewhere in Celtic Europe. 
Murphy bought her a goblet of 
fi'ozen shavings, each a different 
perfume, while he himself drank 
white rice-beer. Soek Panjoebang 
displayed an intense interest in the 
ways of Earth, and Murphy found 
it hard to guide the conversation. 
"Weelbrrr," she said. "Such a fun- 
ny name, Weelbrrr. Do you think 
I could play the gamelan in the 
great cities, the great palaces of 
Earth?" 



"Sure. There's no law against 
gamelans." 

"You talk so funny, Weelbrrr. I 
like to hear you talk." 

"I suppose you get kinda bored 
here in Singhalut?" 

She shrugged. "Life is pleasant, 
but it concerns with little things. 
We have no great adventures. We 
grow flowers, we play the game- 
lan." She eyed him archly sidelong. 
"We love. . . . We sleep. . . ." 

Murphy grinned. "You run 
am,ok." 

"No, no, no. That is no more." 

"Not since the sjambaks, eh?" 

"The sjambaks are bad. But bet- 
ter than amok. When a man feels 
the knot forming around his chest, 
he no longer takes his kris and runs 
down the street — he becomes sjam- 
bak." 

This was getting interesting. 
"Where does he go? What does he 
do?" 

"He robs." 

"Who does he rob? What does 
he do with his loot?" 

She leaned toward him. "It is 
not well to talk of them." 

"Why not?" 

"The Sultan does not wish it.. 
Everywhere are listeners. When 
one talks sjambak, the Sultan's 
ears rise, like the points on a cat." 

"Suppose they do — what's the 
difference? I've got a legitimate in- 
terest. I saw one of them in that 
cage out there. That's torture. I 
want to know about it." 

"He is very bad. He opened the 
monorail car and the air rushed 
out. Forty-two Singhalusi and 
Hadrasi bloated and blew up." 

"And what happened to the 
sjambak?" 



14 



JACK VANCE 



"He took all the gold and money 
and jewels and ran away." 

"Ran where?" 

"Out across Great Pharasang 
Plain. But he was a fool. He came 
back to Singhalut for his wife; he 
was caught and set up for all peo- 
ple to look at, so they might tell 
each other, 'thus it is for sjam- 
baks.' " 

"Where do the sjambaks hide 
out?" 

"Oh," she looked vaguely around 
the room, "out on the plains. In 
the mountains." 

"They must have some shelter — 
an air-dome." 

"No. The Sultan would send out 
his patrol-boat and destroy them. 
They roam quietly. They hide 
among the rocks and tend their 
oxygen stills. Sometimes they visit 
the old cities." 

"I wonder," said Murphy, star- 
ing into his beer, "could it be sjam- 
baks who ride horses up to meet the 
spaceship?" 

Soek Panjoebang knit her black 
eyebrows, as if preoccupied. 

"That's what brought me out 
here," Murphy went on. "This 
story of a man riding a horse out 
in space." 

"Ridiculous; we have no horses 
in Cirgames?." 

"All right, the steward won't 
swear to the horse. Suppose the 
man was up there on foot or rid- 
ing a bicycle. But the steward recog- 
nized the man." 

"Who was this man, pray?" 

"The steward clammed up. . . 
The name would have been just 
noise to me, anyway." 

"I might recognize the name. . ." 

"Ask him yourself. The ship's 



still out at the field." 

She shook her head slowly, hold- 
ing her golden eyes on his face. "I 
do not care to attract the attention 
of either steward, sjambak — or Sul- 
tan." 

Murphy said impatiently. "In 
any event, it's not who — but how. 
How does the man breathe? Vac- 
uum sucks a man's lungs up out of 
his mouth, bursts his stomach, his 
ears. . ." 

"We have excellent doctors," 
said Soek Panjoebang shuddering, 
"but alas! I am not one of them." 



MURPHY LOOKED at her 
sharply. Her voice held the 
plangent sweetness of her instru- 
ment, with additional overtones of 
mockery. "There must be some kind 
of invisible dome around him, hold- 
ing in air," said Murphy. 

"And what if there is?" 

"It's something new, and if it is, 
I want to find out about it." 

Soek smiled languidly. "You are 
so typical an old-lander — worried, 
frowning, dynamic. You should re- 
lax, cultivate napau, enjoy life as 
we do here in Singhalut." 

"What's napaii?" 

"It's our philosophy, where we 
find meaning and life and beauty 
in every aspect of the world." 

"That sjambak in the cage 
could do with a little less napau 
right now." 

"No doubt he is unhappy," she 
agreed. 

"Unhappy! He's being tor- 
tured!" 

"He broke the Sultan's law. His 
life is no longer his own. It belongs 
to Singhalut. If the Sultan wishes 



SJAMBAK 



15 



to use it to warn other wrong- 
doers, the fact that the man suffers 
is of small interest." 

"If they all wear that metal or- 
nament, how can they hope to hide 
out?" He glanced at her own bare 
bosom. 

"They appear by night — slip 
through the streets like ghosts. . ." 
She looked in turn at Murphy's 
loose shirt. "You will notice per- 
sons brushing up against you, feel- 
ing you," she laid her hand along 
his breast, "and when this happens 
you will know they are agents of the 
Sultan, because only strangers and 
the House may wear shirts. But 
now, let me sing to you — a song 
from the Old Land, old Java. You 
will not understand the tongue, but 
no other words so join the voice of 
the gam elan." 



^/THIS IS the gravy-train," said 
■ Murphy. "Instead of a .gar- 
den suite with a private pool, I 
usually sleep in a bubble-tent, with 
nothing to eat but condensed food." 

Soek Panjoebang flung the water 
out of her sleek black hair. "Per- 
haps, Weelbrrr, you will regret leav- 
ing Cirgamesg?" 

"Well," he looked up to the trans- 
parent roof, barely visible where the 
sunlight collected and refracted, "I 
don't particularly like being shut up 
like a bird in an aviary. . . . Mildly 
claustrophobic, I guess." 

After breakfast, drinking thick 
coffee from tiny silver cups. Murphy 
looked long and reflectively at Soek 
Panjoebang. 

"What are you thinking, Weel- 
brrr?" 

Murphy drained his coffee. "I'm 



thinking that I'd better be getting 
to work." 

"And what do you do?" 

"First I'm going to shoot the pal- 
ace, and you sitting here in the gar- 
den playing your gamelan." 

"But Weelbrrr^-not me!" 

"You're a part of the universe, 
rather an interesting part. Then I'll 
take the square. . . ." 

"And the sjambak?" 

A quiet voice spoke from behind. 
"A visitor, Tuan Murphy." 

Murphy turned his head. "Bring 
him in." He looked back to Soek 
Panjoebang. She was on her feet. 

"It is necessary that I go." 

"When will I see you?" 

"Tonight— at the Barangipan." 



THE QUIET VOICE said, "Mr. 
Rube Trimmer, Tuan." 

Trimmer was small and middle- 
aged, with thin shoulders and a 
paunch. He carried himself with a 
hell-raising swagger, left over from 
a time twenty years gone. His skin 
had the waxy look of lost floridity, 
his tuft of white hair was coarse 
and thin, his eyelids hung in the 
off-side droop that amateur physi- 
ognomists like to associate with 
guile. 

"I'm Resident Director of the 
Import-Export Bank," said Trim- 
mer. "Heard you were here and 
thought I'd pay my respects." 

"I suppose you don't see many 
strangers." 

"Not too many— there's nothing 
much to bring 'em. Cirgamesg isn't 
a comfortable tourist planet. Too 
confined, shut in. A man with a 
sensitive psyche goes nuts pretty 
easy here." 



18 



JACK VANCE 



"Naturally I wouldn't believe 
him. He knew I knew that he knew 
it. So when he said 'Sultan', I'd 
think he wouldn't lie simply, but 
that he'd lie double — that he ac- 
tually was working for the Sultan." 

Murphy laughed. "Suppose he 
told you a fourth level lie?" 

"It starts to be a toss-up pretty 
soon," Trimmer admitted. "I don't 
think he gives me credit for that 
much subtlety. . . What are you 
doing the rest of the day?" 

"Taking footage. Do you know 
where I can find some picturesque 
rites? Mystical dances, human sacri- 
fice? I've got to work up some 
glamor and exotic lore." 

"There's this sjambak in the 
cage. That's about as close to the 
medieval as you'll find anywhere in 
Earth Commonwealth." 

"Speaking of sjambaks. . ." 

"No time," said Trimmer. "Got 
to get back. Drop in at my office — 
right down the square from the 
palace." 



MURPHY RETURNED to his 
suite. The shadowy figure of 
his room servant said, "His High- 
ness the Sultan desires the Tuan's 
attendance in the Cascade Gar- 
den." 

"Thank you," said Murphy. "As 
soon as I load my camera." 

The Cascade Room was an ppen 
patio in front of an artificial water- 
fall. The Sultan was pacing back 
and forth, wearing dusty khaki put- 
tees, brown plastic boots, a yellow 
polo shirt. He carried a twig which 
he used as a riding crop, slapping 
his boots as he walked. He turned 
his head as Murphy appeared, 



pointed his twig at a wicker bench. 

"I pray you sit down, Mr. Mur- 
phy." He paced once up and back. 
"How is your suite? You find it to 
your liking?" 

"Very much so." 

"Excellent," said the Sultan. 
"You do me honor with your pres- 
ence." 

Murphy waited patiently. 

"I understand that you had a 
visitor this morning," said the Sul- 
tan. 

"Yes. Mr. Trimmer." 

"May I inquire the nature of the 
conversation?" 

"It was of a personal nature," 
said Murphy, rather more shortly 
than he meant. 

The Sultan nodded wistfully. "A 
Singhalusi would have wasted an 
hour telling me half-truths — dis- 
torted enough to confuse, but not 
sufficiently inaccurate to anger me 
if I had a spy-cell on him all the 
time." 

Murphy grinned. "A Singhalusi 
has to live here the rest of his life." 

A servant wheeled a frosted cab- 
inet before them, placed goblets 
under two spigots, withdrew. The 
Sultan cleared his throat. "Trim- 
mer is an excellent fellow, but un- 
believably loquacious." 

Murphy drew himself two inches 
of chilled rosy-pale liquor. The Sul- 
tan slapped his boots with the twig. 
"Undoubtedly he confided all my 
private business to you, or at least 
as much as I have allowed him to 
learn." 

"Well — he spoke of your hope to 
increase the compass of Singhalut." 

"That, my friend, is no hope ; it's 
absolute necessity. Our population 
density is fifteen hundred to the 



SJAMBAK 



19 



square mile. We must expand or 
smother. There'll be too little food 
to eat, too little oxygen to breathe." 

Murphy suddenly came to life. "I 
could make that idea the theme of 
my feature! Singhalut Dilemma: 
Expand or Perish!" 

"No, that would be inadvisable, 
inapplicable." 

Murphy was not convinced. "It 
sounds like a natural." 

The Sultan smiled. "I'll impart 
an item of confidential informa- 
tion — although Trimmer no doubt 
has preceded me with it." He gave 
his boots an irritated whack. "To 
expand I need funds. Funds are 
best secured in an atmosphere of 
calm and confidence. The implica- 
tion of emergency would be disas- 
trous to my aims." 

"Well," said Murphy, "I see 
your position." 

The Sultan glanced at Murphy 
sidelong. "Anticipating your coop- 
eration, my Minister of Propaganda 
has arranged an hour's program, 
stressing our progressive social atti- 
tude, our prosperity and financial 
prospects. . . ." 

"But, Suhan. . . ." 

"Well?" 

"I can't allow your Minister of 
Propaganda to use me and Know 
Your Universe! as a kind of invest- 
ment brochure." 

The Sultan nodded wearily. "I 
expected you to take that atti- 
tude. . . Well — what do you your- 
self have in mind?" 

"I've been looking for something 
to tie to," .said Murphy. "I think 
it's going to be the dramatic con- 
trast between the ruined cities and 
the new domed valleys. How the 
Earth settlers succeeded where the 



ancient people failed to meet the 
challenge of the dissipating atmos- 
phere." 

"Well," the Sultan said grudg- 
ingly, "that's not too bad." 

"Today I want to take some 
shots of the palace, the dome, the 
city, the paddies, groves, orchards, 
farms. Tomorrow I'm taking a trip 
out to one of the ruins." 

"I see," said the Sultan. "Then 
you won't need my charts and sta* 
tistics?" 

"Well, Sultan, I could film the 
stuff your Propaganda Minister 
cooked up, and I could take it back 
to Earth. Howard Frayberg or Sam 
Catlin would tear into it, rip it 
apart, lard in some head-hunting, a 
little cannibalism and temple pros- 
titution, and you'd never know you 
where watching Singhalut. You'd 
scream with horror, and I'd be 
fired." 

"In that case," said the Sultan, 
"I will leave you to the dictates of 
your conscience." 



HOWARD FRAYBERG looked 
around the gray landscape of 
Riker's Planet, gazed out over the 
roaring black Mogador Ocean. 
"Sam, I think there's a story out 
there." 

Sam Catlin shivered inside his 
electrically heated glass overcoat. 
"Out on that ocean? It's full of 
man-eating plesiosaurs — horrible 
things forty feet long." 

"Suppose we worked somSthing 
out on the line of Moby Dick? The 
White Monster of the Mogador 
Ocean. We'd set sail in a cata- 
maran — " 

"Us?" 



18 



JACK VANCE 



"Naturally I wouldn't believe 
him. He knew I knew that he knew 
it. So when he said 'Sultan', I'd 
think he wouldn't lie simply, but 
that he'd lie double — that he ac- 
tually was working for the Sultan." 

Murphy laughed. "Suppose he 
told you a fourth level lie?" 

"It starts to be a toss-up pretty 
soon," Trimmer admitted. "I don't 
think he gives me credit for that 
much subtlety. . . What are you 
doing the rest of the day?" 

"Taking footage. Do you know 
where I can find some picturesque 
rites? Mystical dances, human sacri- 
fice? I've got to work up some 
glamor and exotic lore." 

"There's this sjambak in the 
cage. That's about as close to the 
medieval as you'll find anywhere in 
Earth Commonwealth." 

"Speaking of sjambaks. . ." 

"No time," said Trimmer. "Got 
to get back. Drop in at my office — 
right down the square from the 
palace." 



MURPHY RETURNED to his 
suite. The shadowy figure of 
his room servant said, "His High- 
ness the Sultan desires the Tuan's 
attendance in the Cascade Gar- 
den." 

"Thank you," said Murphy. "As 
soon as I load my camera." 

The Cascade Room was an ppen 
patio in front of an artificial water- 
fall. The Sultan was pacing back 
and forth, wearing dusty khaki put- 
tees, brown plastic boots, a yellow 
polo shirt. He carried a twig which 
he used as a riding crop, slapping 
his boots as he walked. He turned 
his head as Murphy appeared, 



pointed his twig at a wicker bench. 

"I pray you sit down, Mr. Mur- 
phy." He paced once up and back. 
"How is your suite? You find it to 
your liking?" 

"Very much so." 

"Excellent," said the Sultan. 
"You do me honor with your pres- 
ence." 

Murphy waited patiently. 

"I understand that you had a 
visitor this morning," said the Sul- 
tan. 

"Yes. Mr. Trimmer." 

"May I inquire the nature of the 
conversation?" 

"It was of a personal nature," 
said Murphy, rather more shortly 
than he meant. 

The Sultan nodded wistfully. "A 
Singhalusi would have wasted an 
hour telling me half-truths — dis- 
torted enough to confuse, but not 
sufficiently inaccurate to anger me 
if I had a spy-cell on him all the 
time." 

Murphy grinned. "A Singhalusi 
has to live here the rest of his life." 

A servant wheeled a frosted cab- 
inet before them, placed goblets 
under two spigots, withdrew. The 
Sultan cleared his throat. "Trim- 
mer is an excellent fellow, but un- 
believably loquacious." 

Murphy drew himself two inches 
of chilled rosy-pale liquor. The Sul- 
tan slapped his boots with the twig. 
"Undoubtedly he confided all my 
private business to you, or at least 
as much as I have allowed him to 
learn." 

"Well — ^he spoke of your hope to 
increase the compass of Singhalut." 

"That, my friend, is no hope; it's 
absolute necessity. Our population 
density is fifteen hundred to the 



SJAMBAK 



19 



square mile. We must expand or 
smother. There'll be too little food 
to eat, too little oxygen to breathe." 

Murphy suddenly came to life. "I 
could make that idea the theme of 
my feature! Singhalut Dilemma: 
Expand or Perish!" 

"No, that would be inadvisable, 
inapplicable." 

Murphy was not convinced. "It 
sounds like a natural." 

The Sultan smiled. "I'll impart 
an item of confidential informa- 
tion — although Trimmer no doubt 
has preceded me with it." He gave 
his boots an irritated whack. "To 
expand I need funds. Funds are 
best secured in an atmosphere of 
calm and confidence. The implica- 
tion of emergency would be disas- 
trous to my aims." 

"Well," said Murphy, "I see 
your position." 

The Sultan glanced at Murphy 
sidelong. "Anticipating your coop- 
eration, my Minister of Propaganda 
has arranged an hour's program, 
stressing our progressive social atti- 
tude, our prosperity and financial 
prospects. ..." 

"But, Sultan. . . ." 

"Well?" 

"I can't allow your Minister of 
Propaganda to use me and Know 
Your Universe! as a kind of invest- 
ment brochure." 

The Sultan nodded wearily. "I 
expected you to take that atti- 
tude. . . Well — what do you your- 
self have in mind?" 

"I've been looking for something 
to tie to," said Murphy. "I think 
it's going to be the dramatic con- 
trast between the ruined cities and 
the new domed valleys. How the 
Earth settlers succeeded where the 



ancient people failed to meet the 
challenge of the dissipating atmos- 
phere." 

"Well," the Sultan said grudg- 
ingly, "that's not too bad." 

"Today I want to take some 
shots of the palace, the dome, the 
city, the paddies, groves, orchards, 
farms. Tomorrow I'm taking a trip 
out to one of the ruins." 

"I see," said the Sultan. "Then 
you won't need my charts and sta-' 
tistics?" 

"Well, Sultan, I could film the 
stuff your Propaganda Minister 
cooked up, and I could take it back 
to Earth. Howard Frayberg or Sam 
Catlin would tear into it, rip it 
apart, lard in some head-hunting, a 
little cannibalism and temple pros- 
titution, and you'd never know you 
where watching Singhalut. You'd 
scream with horror, and I'd be 
fired." 

"In that case," said the Sultan, 
"I will leave you to the dictates of 
your conscience." 



HOWARD FRAYBERG looked 
around the gray landscape of 
Riker's Planet, gazed out over the 
roaring black Mogador Ocean. 
"Sam, I think there's a story out 
there." 

Sam Catlin shivered inside his 
electrically heated glass overcoat. 
"Out on that ocean? It's full of 
man-eating plesiosaurs — horrible 
things forty feet long." 

"Suppose we worked something 
out on the line of Moby Dick? The 
White Monster of the Mogador 
Ocean. We'd set sail in a cata- 
maran — " 

"Us?" 



20 



JACK VANCE 



"No," said Frayberg impatiently. 
"Of course not us. Two or three of 
the staff. They'd sail out there, look 
over these gray and red monsters, 
maybe fake a fight or two, but all 
the time they're after the legendary 
white one. How's it sound?" 

"I don't think we pay our men 
enough money." 

"Wilbur Murphy might do it. 
He's willing to look for a man rid- 
ing a horse up to meet his space- 
ships." 

"He might draw the line at a 
white plesiosaur riding up to meet 
his catamaran." 

Frayberg turned away. "Some- 
body's got to have ideas around 
here. . ." 

"We'd better head back to the 
space-port," said Catlin. "We got 
two hours to make the Sirgamesk 
shuttle." 



WILBUR MURPHY sat in the 
Barangipan, watching mar- 
ionettes performing to xylophone, 
Castanet, gong and gamelan. The 
drama had its roots in proto-his- 
toric Mohenjo-Dar5. It had filtered 
down through ancient India, medi- 
eval Burma, Malaya, across the 
Straits of Malacca to Sumatra and 
Java; from modern Java across 
space to Cirgamesg, five thousand 
years of time, two hundred light- 
years of space. Somewhere along 
the route it had met and assimi- 
lated modern technology. Magnetic 
beams controlled arms, legs and 
bodies, guided the poses and pos- 
turings. The manipulator's face, by 
agency of clip, wire, radio control 
and minuscule selsyn, projected his 
scowl, smile, sneer or grimace to 



the peaked little face he controlled. 
The language was that of Old Java, 
which perhaps a third of the spec- 
tators understood. This portion did 
not include Murphy, and when 
the performance ended he was no 
wiser than at the start. 

Soek Panjoebang slipped into the 
seat beside Murphy. She wore mu- 
sician's garb: a sarong of brown, 
blue, and black batik, and a fan- 
tastic headdress of tiny silver bells. 
She greeted him with enthusiasm. 

"Weelbrrr! I saw you watch- 
ing. ..." 

"It was very interesting." 

"Ah, yes." She sighed. "Weelbrrr, 
you take me with you back to 
Earth? You make me a great pic- 
turama star, please, Weelbrrr?" 

"Well, I don't know about that." 

"I behave very well, Weelbrrr." 
She nuzzled his shoulder, looked 
soulfully up with her shiny yellow- 
hazel eyes. Murphy nearly forgot 
the experiment he intended to per- 
form. 

"What did you do today, Weel- 
brrr? You look at all the pretty 
girls?" 

"Nope. I ran footage. Got the 
palace, climbed the ridge up to the 
condensation vanes. I never knew 
there was so much water in the air 
till I saw the stream pouring off 
thosjp vanes! And hot.'" 

"We have much sunlight; it 
makes the rice grow." 

"The Sultan ought to put some 
of that excess light to work. 
There's a secret process. . . . Well, 
I'd better not say." 

"Oh come, Weelbrrr! Tell me 
your secrets!" 

"It's not much of a secret. Just 
a catalyst that separates clay into 



SJAMBAK 



21 



aluminum and oxygen when sun- 
light shines on it." 

Soek's eyebrows rose, poised in 
place like a seagull riding the wind. 
"Weelbrrr! I did not know you for 
a man of learning!" 

"Oh, you thought I was just a 
bum, eh? Good enough to make 
picturama stars out of gamelan 
players, but no special genius. . ." 

"No, no, Weelbrrr." 

"I know lots of tricks. I can take 
a flashlight battery, a piece of cop- 
per foil, a few transistors and bam- 
boo tube and turn out a paralyzer 
gun that'll stop a man cold in his 
tracks. And you know how much it 
costs?" 

"No, Weelbrrr. How much?" 

"Ten cents. It wears out after 
two or three months, but what's 
the difference? I make 'em as a 
hobby — turn out two or three an 
hour." 

"Weelbrrr! You're a man of mar- 
vels! Hello! We will drink!" 

And Murphy settled back in the 
wicker chair, sipping his rice beer. 



//TODAY," said Murphy, "I get 
' into a space-suit, and ride 
out to the ruins in the plain. Ghata- 
mipol, I think they're called. Like 
to come?" 

"No, Weelbrrr." Soek Panjoe- 
bang looked off into the garden, 
her hands busy tucking a flower 
into her hair. A few minutes later 
she said, "Why must you waste 
your time among the rocks? There 
are better things to do and see. 
And it might well be — dangerous." 
She murmured the last word off- 
handedly. 

"Danger? From the sjambaks?" 



"Yes, perhaps." 

"The Sultan's giving me a guard. 
Twenty men with crossbows." 

"The sjambaks carry shields." 

"Why should they risk their lives 
attacking me?" 

Soek Panjoebang shrugged. Aft- 
er a moment she rose to her feet. 
"Goodbye, Weelbrrr." 

"Goodbye? Isn't this rather 
abrupt? Won't I see you tonight?" 

"If so be Allah's will." 

Murphy looked after the lithe 
swaying figure. She paused, plucked 
a yellow flower, looked over her 
shoulder. Her eyes, yellow as the 
flower, lucent as water-jewels, held 
his. Her face was utterly expres- 
sionless. She turned, tossed away 
the flower with a jaunty gesture, 
and continued, her shoulders 
swinging. 

Murphy breathed deeply. She 
might have made picturama at 
that. . . 

One hour later he met his escort 
at the valley gate. They were 
dressed in space-suits for the plains, 
twenty men with sullen faces. The 
trip to Ghatamipol clearly was not 
to their liking. Murphy climbed into 
his own suit, checked the oxygen 
pressure gauge, the seal at his col- 
lar. "All ready, boys?" 

No one spoke. The silence drew 
out. The gatekeeper, on hand to 
let the party out, snickered. 
"They're all ready, Tuan." 

"Well," said Murphy, "let's go 
then." _ 

Outside the gate Murphy made 
a second check of his equipment. 
No leaiks in his suit. Inside pressure : 
14.6. Outside pressure: zero. His 
twenty guards morosely inspected 
their crossbows and slim swords. 



:t2 



JACK VANCE 



The white ruins of Ghatamipol 
lay five miles across Pharasang 
Plain. The horizon was clear, the 
sun was high, the sky was black. 

Murphy's radio hummed. Some- 
one said sharply, "Look! There it 
goes!" He wheeled around; his 
guards had halted, and were point- 
ing. He saw a fleet something van- 
ishing into the distance. 

"Let's go," said Murphy. 
"There's nothing out there." 

"Sjambak." 

"Well, there's only one of them." 

"Where one walks, others fol- 
low." 

"That's why the twenty of you 
are here." 

"It is madness! Challenging the 
sjambaks!" 

"What is gained?" another ar- 
gued. 

"I'll be the judge of that," said 
Murphy, and set off along the 
plain. The warriors reluctantly fol- 
lowed, muttering to each other 
over their radio intercoms. 



THE ERODED city walls rose 
above them, occupied more 
and more of the sky. The platoon 
leader said in an angry voice, "We 
have gone far enough." 

"You're under my orders," said 
Murphy. "We're going through 
the gate." He punched the button 
on his camera and passed under 
the monstrous portal. 

The city was frailer stuff than 
the wall, and had succumbed to the 
thin storms which had raged a mil- 
lion years after the passing of life. 
Murphy marvelled at the scope of 
the ruins. Virgin archaeological 
territory! No telling what a few 



weeks digging might turn up. Mur- 
phy considered his expense ac- 
count. Shifkin was the obstacle. 

There'd be tremendous prestige 
and publicity for Know Your Uni- 
verse! if Murphy uncovered a 
tomb, a library, works of art. The 
Sultan would gladly provide dig- 
gers. They were a sturdy enough 
people; they could make quite a 
showing in a week, if they were 
able to put aside their superstitions, 
fears and dreads. 

Murphy sized one of them up 
from the corner of his eye. He sat 
on a sunny slab of rock, and if he 
felt uneasy he concealed it quite 
successfully. In fact, thought Mur- 
phy, he appeared completely re- 
laxed. Maybe the problem of se- 
curing diggers was a minor one aft- 
er all. . . 

And here was an odd sidelight 
on the Singhalusi character. Once 
clear of the valley the man openly 
wore his shirt, a fine loose garment 
of electric blue, in defiance of the 
Sultan's edict. Of course out here 
he might be cold. . . 

Murphy felt his own skin crawl- 
ing. How could he be cold? How 
could he be alive? Where was his 
space-suit? He lounged on the rock, 
grinning sardonically at Murphy. 
He wore heavy sandals, a black 
turban, loose breeches, the blue 
shirt. Nothing more. 

Where were the others? 

Murphy turned a feverish glance 
over his shoulder. A good three 
miles distant, bounding and leap- 
ing toward Singhalut, were twenty 
desperate figures. They all wore 
space-suits. This man here. . . A 
sjambak? A wizard? A hallucina- 
tion? 



SJAMBAK 



23 



THE CREATURE rose to his 
feet, strode springily toward 
Murphy. He carried a crossbow and 
a sword, like those of Murphy's 
fleet-footed guards. But he wore no 
space-suit. Could there be breath- 
able traces of an atmosphere? Mur- 
phy glanced at his gauge. Outside 
pressure: zero. 

Two other men appeared, mov- 
ing with long elastic steps. Their 
eyes were bright, their faces flushed. 
They came up to Murphy, took his 
arm. They were solid, corporeal. 
They had no invisible force fields 
around their heads. 

Murphy jerked his arm free. 
"Let go of me, damn it!" But they 
certainly couldn't hear him through 
the vacuum. 

He glanced over his shoulder. 
The first man held his naked blade 
a foot or two behind Murphy's 
bulging space-suit. Murphy made 
no further resistance. He punched 
the button on his camera to auto- 
matic. It would now run for sev- 
eral hours, recording one hundred 
pictures per second, a thousand to 
the inch. 

The sjambaks led Murphy two 
hundred yards to a metal door. 
They opened it, pushed Murphy 
inside, banged it shut. Murphy felt 
the vibration through his shoes, 
heard a gradually waxing hum. His 
gauge showed an outside pressure 
of 5, 10, 12, 14, 14.5. An inner 
door opened. Hands pulled Murphy 
in, undamped his dome. 

"Just what's going on here?" 
demanded Murphy angrily. 

Prince Ali-Tomas pointed to a 
table. Murphy saw a flashlight bat- 
tery, aluminum foil, wire, a tran- 
sistor kit, metal tubing, tools, a few 



other odds and ends. 

"There it is," said Prince Ali- 
Tomas. "Get to work. Let's see one 
of these paralysis weapons you 
boast of." 

"Just like that, eh?" 

"Just like that." 

"What do you want 'em for?" 

"Does it matter?" 

"I'd like to know." Murphy was 
conscious of his camera, recording 
sight, sound, odor. 

"I lead an army," said Ali-To- 
mas, "but they march without 
weapons. Give me weapons! I will 
carry the word to Hadra, to New 
Batavia, to Sundaman, to Boeng- 
BohSt!" 

"How? Why?" 

"It is enough that I will it. 
Again, I beg of you. . ." He indi- 
cated the table. 

Murphy laughed. "I've got my- 
self in a fine mess. Suppose I don't 
make this weapon for you?" 

"You'll remain until you do, un- 
der increasingly difficult condi- 
tions." 

"I'll be here a long time." 

"If such is the case," said Ali- 
Tomas, "we must make our ar- 
rangements for your care on a long- 
term basis." 

Ali made a gesture. Hands seized 
Murphy's shoulders. A respirator 
was held to his nostrils. He thought 
of his camera, and he could have 
laughed. Mystery! Excitement! 
Thrills! Dramatic sequence for 
Know Your Universe! Staff-man 
murdered by fanatics! The crime 
recorded on his own camera! See 
the blood, hear his death-rattle, 
smell the poison! 

The vapor choked him. What a 
break! What a sequence! 



24 



JACK VANCE 



//CIRGAMESK," said Howard 

•^Frayberg, "bigger and bright- 
er every minute." 

"It must've been just about in 
here," said Catlin, "that Wilbur's 
horseback rider appeared." 

"That's right! Steward!" 

"Yes, sir?'' 

"We're about twenty thousand 
miles out, aren't we?" 

"About fifteen thousand, sir." 

"Sidereal Cavalry! What an idea! 
I wonder how Wilbur's making out 
on his superstition angle?" 

Sam Catlin, watching out the 
window, said in a tight voice, 
"Why not ask him yourself?" 

"Eh?" 

"Ask him for yourself! There he 
is — outside, riding some kind of 
critter. . ." 

"It's a ghost," whispered Fray- 
berg. "A man without a space- 
suit. . . There's no such thing!" 

"He sees us. . . Look. . ." 

Murphy was staring at them, 
and his surprise seemed equal to 
their own. He waved his hand. Cat- 
lin gingerly waved back. 

Said Frayberg, "That's not a 
horse he's riding. It's a combina- 
tion ram-jet and kiddie car with 
stirrups!" 

"He's coming aboard the ship," 
said Catlin. "That's the entrance 
port down there. . . ." 



WILBUR MURPHY sat in the 
captain's stateroom, taking 
careful breaths of air. 

"How are you now?" asked 
Frayberg. 

"Fine. A little sore in the lungs." 
"I shouldn't wonder," the ship's 



doctor growled. "I never saw any- 
thing like it." 

"How does it feel out there, Wil- 
bur?" Catlin asked. 

"It feels awful lonesome and 
empty. And the breath seeping up 
out of your lungs, never going in — 
that's a funny feeling. And you 
miss the air blowing on your skin. 
I never realized it before. Air feels 
like — like silk, like whipped cream 
— it's got texture. . . ." 

"But aren't you cold? Space is 
supposed to be absolute zero!" 

"Space is nothing. It's not hot 
and it's not cold. When you're in 
the sunlight you get warm. It's bet- 
ter in the shade. You don't lose any 
heat by air convection, but radia- 
tion and sweat evaporation keep 
you comfortably cool." 

"I still can't understand it," said 
Frayberg. "This Prince Ali, he's a 
kind of a rebel, eh?" 

"I don't blame him in a way. A 
normal man living under those 
domes has to let off steam some- 
how. Prince Ali decided to go out 
crusading. I think he would have 
made it too — at least on Cirga- 
mes?." 

"Certainly there are many more 
men inside the domes. . ." 

"When it comes to fighting," said 
Murphy, "a sjambak can lick 
twenty men in spacesuits. A little 
nick doesn't hurt him, but a little 
nick bursts open a spacesuit, and^ 
the man inside comes apart." 

"Well," said the Captain. "I 
imagine the Peace Office will send 
out a team to put things in order 
now." 

Catlin asked, "What happened 
when you woke up from the chloro- 
form?" 



SJAMBAK 



25 



"Well, nothing very miKh. I felt 
this attachment on my chest, but 
didn't think much about it. Still 
kinda woozy. I was halfway 
through decompression. They keep 
a man there eight hours, drop pres- 
sure on him two pounds an hour, 
nice and slow so he don't get the 
bends." 

"Was this the same place they 
took you, when you met Ali?" 

"Yeah, that was their decompres- 
sion chamber. They had to make a 
sjambak out of me; there wasn't 
anywhere else they could keep me. 
Well, pretty soon my head cleared, 
and I saw this apparatus stuck to 
my chest." He poked at the mech- 
anism on the table. "I saw the oxy- 
gen tank, I saw the blood running 
Arough the plastic pipes — blue 
from me to that carburetor ar- 
rangement, red on the way back 
in — and I figured out the whole ar- 
rangement. Carbon dioxide still ex- 
hales up through your lungs, but 
the vein back to the left auricle is 
routed through the carburetor and 
supercharged with oxygen. A man 
doesn't need to breathe. The car- 
buretor flushes his blood with oxy- 
gen, the decompression tank ad- 
justs him to the lack of air-pres- 
sure. There's only one thing to look 
out for; that's not to touch any- 
thing with your naked flesh. If it's 
in the sunshine it's blazing hot; if 
it's in the shade it's cold enough to 
cut. Otherwise you're free as a 
bird." 

"But — ^how did you get away?" 

"I saw those little rocket-bikes, 
and began figuring. I couldn't go 



back to Singhalut; I'd be lynched 
on sight as a sjambak. I couldn't fly 
to another planet — the bikes don't 
carry enough fuel. 

"I knew when the ship would be 
coming in, so I figured I'd fly up to 
meet it. I told the guard I was go- 
ing outside a minute, and I got on 
one of the rocket-bikes. There was 
nothing much to it." 

"Well," said Frayberg, "it's a 
great feature, Wilbur — a great film! 
Maybe we can stretch it into two 
hours." 

"There's one thing bothering 
me," said Catlin. "Who did the 
steward see up here the first time?" 

Murphy shrugged. "It might 
have been somebody up here sky- 
larking. A little too much oxygen 
and you start cutting all kinds of 
capers. Or it might have been 
someone who decided he had 
enough crusading. 

"There's a sjambak in a cage, 
right in the middle of Singhalut. 
Prince Ali walks past; they look at 
each other eye to eye. Ali smiles a 
little and walks on. Suppose this 
sjambak tried to escape to the ship. 
He's taken aboard, turned over to 
the Sultan and the Sultan makes an 
example of him. . ." 

"What'll the Sultan do to Ali?" 

Murphy shook his head. "If I 
were Ali I'd disappear." 

A loudspeaker turned on. "Atten- 
tion all passengers. We have just 
passed through quarantine. Passen- 
gers may now disembark. Impor- 
tant: no weapons or explosives al- 
lowed on Singhalut!" 

"This is where I came in," said 
Murphy. 



■ THE END ■ 



There's no such thing as a weapon too horrible 
to use; weapons will continue to become bigger. 
and deadlier. Like other things that can't be 
stopped ... 



IRRESISTIBLE WEAPON 



By H. B. Fyfe 



Illustrated by ED EMSH 



IN THE SPECIAL observation 
dome of the colossal command 
ship just beyond Pluto, every nerv- 
ous clearing of a throat rasped 
through the silence. Telescopes 
were available but most of the 
scientists and high officials pre- 
ferred the view on the huge tele- 
screen. 

This showed, from a distance of 
several million miles, one of the 
small moons of the frigid planet, so 
insignificant that it had not been 
discovered until man had pushed 
the boundaries of space exploration 
past the asteroids. The satellite was 
about to become spectacularly sig- 
nificant, however, as the first tar- 
get of man's newest, most destruc- 
tive weapon. 

"I need not remind you, gentle- 
men," white-haired Co-ordinator 
Evora of Mars had said, "that if 
we have actually succeeded in this 
race against our former Centaurian 



27 



colonies, it may well prevent the 
imminent conflict entirely. In a 
few moments we shall know wheth- 
er our scientists have developed a 
truly irresistible weapon." 

Of all the officials, soldiers, and 
scientists present, Arnold Gibson 
was perhaps the least excited. For 
one thing, he had labored hard to 
make the new horror succeed and 
felt reasonably confident that it 
would. The project had been given 
the attention of every first class 
scientific mind in the Solar System ; 
for the great fear was that the new 
states on the Centaurian planets 
might win the race of discovery 
and . . . 

And bring a little order into this 
old-fashioned, inefficient fumbling 
toward progress, Gibson thought 
contemptuously. Look at them — 
fools for all their degrees and titles! 
They've stumbled on something 
with possibilities beyond their con- 



28 



H. B. FYFE 



fused powers of application. 

A gasp rustled through the 
chamber, followed by an even more 
awed silence than had preceded 
the unbelievable, ultra-rapid action 
on the telescreen. Gibson permitted 
himself a tight smile of satisfaction. 

Now my work really begins, he 
reflected. 

A few quick steps brought him 
to Dr. Haas, director of the project, 
just before the less stunned observ- 
ers surrounded that gentleman, 
babbling questions. 

"I'll start collecting the Number 
Three string of recorders," he re- 
ported. 

"All right, Arnold," agreed Haas. 
"Tell the others to get their ships 
out too. I'll be busy here." 

Not half as busy as you will be 
in about a day, thought Gibson, 
heading for the spaceship berths. 



HE HAD ARRANGED to be as- 
signed the recording machines 
drifting in space at the greatest dis- 
tance from the command ship. The 
others would assume that he need- 
ed more time to locate and retrieve 
the apparatus — ^which would give 
him a head start toward Alpha 
Centauri. 

His ship was not large, but it was 
powerful and versatile to cope with 
any emergency that may have been 
encountered during the dangerous 
tests. Gibson watched his instru- 
ments carefully for signs of pursuit 
until he had put a few million 
miles between himself and the com- 
mand ship. Then he eased his craft 
into subspace drive and relaxed his 
vigilance. 

He returned to normal space 



many "days" later in the vicinity 
of Alpha Centauri. They may 
have attempted to follow him for 
all he knew, but it hardly mattered 
by then. He broadcast the recogni- 
tion signal he had been given to 
memorize long ago, when he had 
volunteered his services to the new 
states. Then he headed for the cap- 
ital planet, Nessus. Long before 
reaching it, he acquired a lower- 
ing escort of warcraft, but he was 
permitted to land. 

"Well, well, it's young Gibson!" 
the Chairman of Nessus greeted 
him, after the newcomer had 
passed through the exhaustive 
screening designed to protect the 
elaborate underground headquar- 
ters. "I trust you have news for us, 
my boy. Watch outside the door. 
Colonel!" 

One of the ostentatiously armed 
guards stepped outside and closed 
the door as Gibson greeted the 
obese man sitting across the button- 
studded expanse of desk. The scien- 
tist was under no illusion as to the 
vagueness of the title "Chairman." 
He was facing the absolute power 
of the Centaurian planets — which, 
in a few months' time, would be the 
same as saying the ruler of all the 
human race in both systems. Gib- 
son's file must have been available 
on the Chairman's desk telescreen 
within minutes of the reception of 
his recognition signal. He felt a 
thrill of admiration for the effici- 
ency of the new states and their 
system of government. 

He made it his business to report 
briefly and accurately, trusting that 
the plain facts of his feat would at- 
tract suitable recognition. They did. 
Chairman Diamond's sharp blue 



IRRESISTIBLE WEAPON 



29 



eyes glinted out of the fat mask of 
his features. 

"Well done, my boy!" he grunted, 
with a joviality he did not bother 
trying to make sound overly sincere. 
"So they have it! You must see our 
men immediately, and point out 
where they have gone wrong. You 
may leave it to me to decide who 
has gone wrong!" 



ARNOLD GIBSON shivered in- 
voluntarily before reminding 
himself that he had seen the correct 
answer proved before his eyes. He 
had stood there and watched — 
more, he had worked with them all 
his adult life — and he was the last 
whom the muddled fools would 
have suspected. 

The officer outside the door, 
Colonel Korman, was recalled and 
given orders to esco,rt Gibson to the 
secret state laboratories. He glanced 
briefly at the scientist when they 
had been let out through the com- 
plicated system of safeguards. 

"We have to go to the second 
moon," he said expressionlessly. 
"Better sleep all you can on the way. 
Once you're there, the Chairman 
will be impatient for results!" 

Gibson was glad, after they had 
landed on the satellite, that he had 
taken the advice. He was led from 
one underground lab to another, to 
compare Centaurian developments 
with Solarian. Finally, Colonel Kor- 
man appeared to extricate him, 
giving curt answers to such re- 
searchers as still had questions. 

"Whew! Glad you got me out!" 
Gibson thanked him. "They've been 
picking my brain for two days 
straight!" 



"I hope you can stay awake," re- 
torted Korman with no outward 
sign of sympathy. "If you think you 
can't, say so now. I'll have them 
give you another shot. The Chair- 
man is calling on the telescreen." 

Gibson straightened. 

Jealous snob! he thought. Typical 
military fathead, and he knows I 
amount to more than any little 
colonel now. I was smart enough to 
fool all the so-called brains of the 
Solar System. 

"I'll stay awake," he said 
shortly. 

Chairman Diamond's shiny fea- 
tures appeared on the screen soon 
after Korman reported his charge 
ready. 

"Speak freely," he ordered Gib- 
son. "This beam is so tight and 
scrambled that no prying jackass 
could even tell that it is communica- 
tion. Have you set us straight?" 

"Yes, Your Excellency," replied 
Gibson. "I merely pointed out 
which of several methods the Solar- 
ians got to yield results. Your — our 
scientists were working on all pos- 
sibilities, so it would have been 
only a matter of time." 

"Which you have saved us," said 
Chairman Diamond. His ice-blue 
eyes glinted again. "I wish I could 
have seen the faces of Haas and Co- 
ordinator Evora, and the rest. You 
fooled them completely!" 

Gibson glowed at the rare praise. 

"I dislike bragging. Your Excel- 
lency," he said, "but they are fools. 
I might very well have found the 
answer without them, once they had 
collected the data. My success shows 
what intelligence, well-directed 
after the manner of the new states 



3d 



H. B. FYFE 



of Centauri, can accomplish against 
inefficiency." 

The Chairman's expression, 
masked by the fat of his face, never- 
theless approached a smile. 

"So you would say that you — one 
of our sympathizers — were actually 
the most intelligent worker they 
had?" 

He'll have his little joke, thought 
Gibson, and I'll let him put it over. 
Then, even that sour colonel will 
laugh with us, and the Chairman 
will hint about what post I'll get 
as a reward. I wouldn't mind be- 
ing in charge — old Haas' opposite 
number at this end. 

"I think I might indeed be per- 
mitted to boast of that much ability, 
Your Excellency," he answered, 
putting on what he hoped was an 
expectant smile. "Although, con- 
sidering the Solarians, that is not 
saying much." 

The little joke did not develop 
precisely as anticipated. 

"Unfortunately," Chairman Dia- 
mond said, maintaining his smile 
throughout, "wisdom should never 
be confused with intelligence." 



GIBSON WAITED, feeling his 
own smile stiffen as he won- 
dered what could be going wrong. 
Surely, they could not doubt his 
loyalty! A hasty glance at Colonel 
Korman revealed no expression on 
the military facade affected by that 
gentleman. 

"For if wisdom were completely 
synonymous with intelligence," the 
obese Chairman continued, relish- 
ing his exposition, "you would be a 
rival to myself, and consequently 
would be — disposed of — anyway!" 



Such a tingle shot up Gibson's 
spine that he was sure he must have 
jumped. 

"Anyway?" he repeated huskily. 
His mouth suddenly seemed dry. 

Chairman Diamond smiled out 
of the telescreen, so broadly that 
Gibson was unpleasantly affected 
by the sight of his small, gleaming, 
white teeth. 

"Put it this way," he suggested 
suavely. "Your highly trained mind 
observed, correlated, and memo- 
rized the most intricate data and 
mathematics, meanwhile guiding 
your social relations with your 
former colleagues so as to remain 
unsuspected while stealing their 
most cherished secret. Such a feat 
demonstrates ability and intelli- 
gence." 

Gibson tried to lick his lips, and 
could not, despite the seeming fair- 
ness of the words. He sensed a puls- 
ing undercurrent of cruelty and 
cynicism. 

"On the other hand," the mellow 
voice flowed on, "having received 
the information, being able to use 
it effectively now without you, and 
knowing that you betrayed once — 
I shall simply discard you like an 
old message blank. That is an act of 
wisdom. 

"Had you chosen your course 
more wisely," he added, "your posi- 
tion might be stronger." 

By the time Arnold Gibson re- 
gained his voice, the Centaurian 
autocrat was already giving instruc- 
tions to Colonel Korman. The 
scientist strove to interrupt, to at- 
tract the ruler's attention even mo- 
mentarily. 

Neither paid him any heed, until 
he shouted and tried frenziedly to 



IRRESISTIBLE WEAPON 



31 



shove the soldier from in front of 
the telescreen. Korman backhanded 
him across the throat without look- 
ing around, with such force that 
Gibson staggered back and fell. 

He lay, half-choking, grasping 
his throat with both hands until he 
could breathe. The colonel contin- 
ued discussing his extinction with- 
out emotion. 

". . . so if Your Excellency agrees, 
I would prefer taking him back to 
Nessus first, for the sake of the 
morale factor here. Some of them 
are so addled now at having been 
caught chasing up wrong alleys 
that they can hardly work." 

Apparently the Chairman 
agreed, for the screen was blank 
when the colonel reached down 
and hauled Gibson to his feet. 

"Now, listen to me carefully!" he 
said, emphasizing his order with a 
ringing slap across Gibson's face. 
"I shall walk behind you with my 
blaster drawn. If you make a false 
move, I shall not kill you." 

Gibson stared at him, holding his 
bleeding mouth. 

"It will be much worse," Kor- 
man went on woodenly. "Imagine 
what it will be like to have both 
feet charred to the bone. You 
would have to crawl the rest of the 
way to the ship; I certainly would 
not consider carrying you!" 

In a nightmarish daze, Gibson 
obeyed the cold directions, and 
walked slowly along the under- 
ground corridors of the Centaurian 
research laboratories. He prayed 
desperately that someone — anyone 
— might come along. Anybody who 
could possibly be used to create a 
diversion, or to be pushed into Kor- 
man and his deadly blaster. 



The halls remained deserted, 
possibly by arrangement. 

Maybe I'd better wait till we 
reach his ship, Gibson thought. / 
ought to he able to figure a way be- 
fore we reach Nessus. I had the 
brains to fool Haas and . . . 

He winced, recalling Chairman 
Diamond's theory of the difference 
between intelligence and wisdom. 

The obscene swine! he screamed 
silently. 

Colonel Korman grunted warn- 
ingly, and Gibson took the indi- 
cated turn. 

They entered the spaceship from 
an underground chamber, and 
Gibson learned the reason for his 
executioner's assurance when the 
latter chained him to one of the 
pneumatic acceleration seats. The 
chain was fragile in appearance, but 
he knew he would not be free to 
move until Korman so desired. 

More of their insane brand of 
cleverness! he reflected. That's the 
sort of thing they do succeed in 
thinking of. They're all crazy! Why 
did I ever . . . 

But he shrank from the question 
he feared to answer. To drag out 
into the open his petty, selfish rea- 
sons, shorn of the tinsel glamor of 
so-called "service" and "progress," 
would be too painful. 



AFTER THE FIRST series of 
accelerations, he roused himself 
from his beaten stupor enough to 
note that Korman was taking a 
strange course for reaching Nessus. 
Then, entirely too close to 'the 
planet and its satellites to ensure 

(Continued on page 118) 



A grim tale of a future in which everyone is desperate to escape 
reality, and a hero who wants to have his wine and drink it, too. 



A BOTTLE OF 

Old Wine 

By Richard O. Lewis 



Illustrated by KELLY FREAS 



"LTERBERT HYREL settled him- 
-*- -*- self more comfortably in his 
easy chair, extended his short legs 
further toward the fireplace, and let 
his eyes travel cautiously in the gen- 
eral direction of his wife. 

She was in her chair as usual, her 
long legs curled up beneath her, 
the upper half of her face hidden 
in the bulk of her personalized, 
three-dimensional telovis. The telo- 
vis, of a stereoscopic nature, seem- 
ingly brought the performers with 
all their tinsel and color directly 
into the room of the watcher. 

Hyrel had no way of seeing into 
the plastic affair she wore, but he 
guessed from the expression on the 
lower half of her face that she was 
watching one of the newer black- 
market sex-operas. In any event, 
there would be no sound, move- 
ment, or sign of life from her for 
the next three hours. To break the 
thread of the play for even a mo- 



33 



ment would ruin all the previous 
emotional build-up. 

There had been a time when he 
hated her for those long and silent 
evenings, lonely hours during 
which he was completely ignored. 
It was different now, however, for 
those hours furnished him with 
time for an escape of his own. 

His lips curled into a tight smile 
and his right hand fondled the un- 
obtrusive switch beneath his trou- 
ser leg. He did not press the switch. 
He would wait a few minutes 
longer. But it was comforting to 
know that it was there, exhilara- 
ting to know that he could escape 
for a few hours by a mere flick of 
his finger. 

He let his eyes stray to the dim 
light of the artificial flames in the 
fireplace. His hate for her was not 
bounded merely by those lonely 
hours she had forced upon him. 
No, it was far more encompassing. 



34 



RICHARD O. LEWIS 



He hated her with a deep, burn- 
ing savagery that was deadly in its 
passion. He hated her for her 
money, the money she kept securely 
from him. He hated her for the 
paltry allowance she doled out to 
him, as if he were an irresponsible 
child. It was as if she were con- 
stantly reminding him in every 
glance and gesture, "I made a bad 
bargain when I married you. You 
wanted me, my money, everything, 
and had nothing to give in return 
except your own doltish self. You 
set a trap for me, baited with lies 
and a false front. Now you are 
caught in your own trap and will 
remain there like a mouse to eat 
from my hand whatever crumbs I 
stoop to give you." 

But some day his hate would be 
appeased. Yes, some day soon he 
would kill her! 

He shot a sideways glance at her, 
wondering if by chance she sus- 
pected . . . She hadn't moved. Her 
lips were pouted into a half smile; 
the sex-opera had probably 
reached one of its more pleasur- 
able moments. 

Hyrel let his eyes shift back to 
the fireplace again. Yes, he would 
kill her. Then he would claim 
a rightful share of her money, be 
rid of her debasing dominance. 



HE LET THE thought run 
around through his head, sa- 
voring it with mental taste buds. 
He would not kill her tonight. No, 
nor the next night. He would wait, 
wait until he had sucked the last 
measure of pleasure from the 
thought. 

It was like having a bottle of 



rare old wine on a shelf where it 
could be viewed daily. It was like 
being able to pause again and 
again before the bottle, hold it up 
to the light, and say to it, "Some 
day, when my desire for you has 
reached the ultimate, I shall un- 
stopper you quietly and sip you 
slowly to the last soul-satisfying 
drop." As long as the bottle re- 
mained there upon the shelf it was 
symbolic of that pleasurable mo- 
ment. . . . 

He snapped out of his reverie 
and realized he had been wasting 
precious moments. There would be 
time enough tomorrow for gloat- 
ing. Tonight, there were other 
things to do. Pleasurable things. 
He remembered the girl he had 
met the night before, and smiled 
smugly. Perhaps she would be 
awaiting him even now. If not, 
there would be another one. . . 

He settled himself deeper into 
the chair, glanced once more at his 
wife, then let his head lean com- 
fortably back against the chair's 
headrest. His hand upon his thigh 
felt the thin mesh that cloaked his 
body beneath his clothing like a 
sheer stocking. His fingers went 
again to the tiny switch. Again he 
hesitated. 

Herbert Hyrel knew no more 
about the telporter suit he wore 
than he did about the radio in the 
corner, the TV set against the wall, 
or the personalized telovis his wife 
was wearing. You pressed one of 
the buttons on the radio; music 
came out. You pressed a button 
a,nd clicked a dial on the TV; 
music and pictures came out. You 
pressed a button and made an ad- 
justment on the telovis; three di- 



A BOTTLE OF OLD WINE 



35 



rhensional, emotion-colored pic- 
tures leaped into the room. You 
pressed a tiny switch on the telpor- 
ter suit; you were whisked away to 
a receiving set you had previously 
set up in secret. 

He knew that the music and the 
images of the performers on the 
TV and telovis were brought to his 
room by some form of electrical im- 
pulse or wave while the actual mu- 
sicians and performers remained in 
the studio. He knew that when he 
pressed the switch on his thigh 
something within him — his ecto- 
plasm, higher self, the thing spirits 
use for materialization, whatever 
its real name — streamed out of him 
along an invisible channel, leaving 
his body behind in the chair in a 
conscious but dream-like state. His 
other self materialized in a small 
cabin in a hidden nook between a 
highway and a river where he had 
installed the receiving set a month 
ago. 

He thought once more of the girl 
who might be waiting for him, 
smiled, and pressed the switch. 



T^HE DANK AIR of the cabin 
-■- was chill to Herbert Hyrel's 
naked flesh. He fumbled through 
the darkness for the clothing he 
kept there, found his shorts and 
trousers, got hurriedly into them, 
then flicked on a pocket lighter and 
igiiited a stub of candle upon the 
table. By the wavering light, he fin- 
ished dressing in the black satin 
clothing, the white shirt, the flow- 
ing necktie and tam. He invoiced 
the contents of his billfold. Not 
much. And his monthly pittance 
was still two weeks away. . . 



He had skimped for six months 
to salvage enough money from his 
allowance to make a down pay- 
ment on the telporter suit. Since 
then, his expenses — monthly pay- 
ments for the suit, cabin rent, costly 
liquor — had forced him to place his 
nights of escape on strict ration. He 
could not go on this way, he real- 
ized. Not now. Not since he had 
met the girl. He had to have more 
money. Perhaps he could not af- 
ford the luxury of leaving the wine 
bottle longer upon the shelf .... 

Riverside Club, where Hyrel ar- 
rived by bus and a hundred yards 
of walking, was exclusive. It ca- 
tered to a clientele that had but 
three things in common: money, a 
desire for utter self-abandonment, 
and a sales slip indicating owner- 
ship of a telporter suit. The club 
was of necessity expensive, for self- 
telportation was strictly illegal, and 
police protection came high. 

Herbert Hyrel adjusted his white, 
silken mask carefully at the door 
and shoved his sales slip through a 
small aperture where it was thor- 
oughly scanned by unseen eyes. A 
buzzer sounded an instant later, the 
lock on the door clicked, and Hyrel 
pushed through into the exhilara- 
ting warmth of music and laughter. 

The main room was large. Hid- 
den lights along the walls sent slow 
beams of red, blue, Vermillion, 
green, yellow and pink trailing 
across the domed ceiling in a het- 
erogeneous pattern. The colored 
beams mingled, diffused, spread, 
were caught up by mirrors of vari- 
ous tints which diffused and min- 
gled the lights once more until the 
whole effect was an ever-changing 
panorama of softly-melting shades. 



3'6 



RICHARD O. LEWIS 



The gay and bizarre costumes of 
the masked revelers on the dance 
floor and at the tables, unearthly in 
themselves, were made even more 
so by the altering light. Music 
flooded the room from unseen 
sources. Laughter — hysterical, 
drunken, filled with utter abandon- 
ment — came from the dance floor, 
the tables, and the private booths 
and rooms hidden cleverly vk^ithin 
the walls. 

Hyrel pushed himself to an un- 
occupied table, sat down and or- 
dered a bottle of cheap whiskey. He 
.would have preferred champagne, 
but his depleted finances forbade 
the more discriminate taste. 

When his order arrived, he 
poured a glass tumbler half full 
and consumed it eagerly while his 
eyes scanned the room in search of 
the girl. He couldn't see her in the 
dim swirl of color. Had she ar- 
rived? Perhaps she was wearing a 
diff'erent costume than shs had the 
night before. If so, recognition 
might prove difficult. ' 

He poured himself another drink, 
promising himself he would go in 
search of her when the liquor be- 
gan to take effect. 

A woman clad in the revealing 
garb of a Persian dancer threw an 
arm about him from behind and 
kissed him on the cheek through 
the veil which covered the lower 
part of her face. 

"Hi, honey," she giggled into his 
ear. "Havin' a time?" 

He reached for the white arm to 
pull her to him, but she eluded his 
grasp and reeled away into the 
waiting arms of a tall toreador. 
Hyrel gulped his whiskey and 
watched her nestle into the arms of 



her partner and begin with him a 
sinuous, suggestive dance. The 
whiskey had begun its warming ef- 
fect, and he laughed. 

This was the land of the lotus 
eaters, the sanctuary of the escap- 
ists, the haven of all who wished to 
cast off their shell of inhibition and 
become the thing they dreamed 
themselves to be. Here one could 
be among his own kind, an actor 
upon a gay stage, a gaudy butter- 
fly metamorphosed from the slug, 
a knight of old. 

The Persian dancing girl was 
probably the wife of a boorish oaf 
whose idea of romance was spend- 
ing an evening telling his wife how 
he came to be a successful bank 
president. But she had found her 
means of escape. Perhaps she had 
pleaded a sick headache and had 
retired to her room. And there upon 
the bed now reposed her shell of 
reality while her inner self, the 
shadowy one, completely material- 
ized, became an exotic thing from 
the East in this never-never land. 

The man, the toreador, had 
probably closeted himself within his 
library with a set of account books 
and had left strict orders not to be 
disturbed until he had finished 
with them. 

Both would have terrific hang- 
overs in the morning. But that, of 
course, would be fully compensated 
for by the memories of the evening. 

Hyrel chuckled. The situation 
struck him as being funny: the 
shadowy self got drunk and had a 
good time, and the outer husk suf- 
fered the hangover in the morning. 
Strange. Strange how a device such 
as the telporter suit could cause the 
shadow of each bodily cell to leave 



A BOTTLE OF OLD WINE 



37 



the body, materialize, and become 
a reality in its own right. And 
yet . . . 



"LTE LOOKED at the heel of his 
-*--*■ left hand. There was a long, 
irregular scar there. It was the re- 
sult of a cut he had received near- 
ly three weeks ago when he had 
fallen over this very table and had 
rammed his hand into a sliver of 
broken champagne glass. Later that 
evening, upon re-telporting back 
home, the pain of the cut had re- 
mained in his hand, but there was 
no sign of the cut itself on the hand 
of his outer self. The scar was pe- 
culiar to the shadowy body only. 
There was something about the 
shadowy body that carried the 
hurts to the outer body, but not the 
scars . . . 

Sudden laughter broke out near 
him, and he turned quickly in that 
direction. A group of gaily cos- 
tumed revelers was standing in a 
semi-circle about a small mound of 
clothing upon the floor. It was the 
costume of the toreador. 

Hyrel laughed, too. It had hap- 
pened many times before — a cos- 
tume suddenly left empty as its 
owner, due to a threat of discovery 
at home, had had to press the 
switch in haste to bring his shad- 
owy self — and complete conscious- 
ness — back to his outer self in a 
hurry. 

A waiter picked up the clothing. 
He would put it safely away so that 
the owner could claim it upon his 
next visit to the club. Another 
waiter placed a fresh bottle of 
whiskey on the table before Hyrel, 
and Hyrel paid him for it. 



The whiskey, reaching his head 
now in surges of warm cheerful- 
ness, was filling him with abandon- 
ment, courage, and a desire for 
merriment. He pushed himself up 
from the table, joined the merry 
throng, threw his arm about the 
Persian dancer, drew her close. 

They began dancing slowly to 
the throbbing rhythm, dancing and 
holding on to each other tightly. 
Hyrel could feel her hot breath 
through her veil upon his neck, add- 
ing to the headiness of the liquor. 
His feeling of depression and inferi- 
ority flowed suddenly from him. 
Once again he was the all-conquer- 
ing male. 

His arm trembled as it drew her 
still closer to him and he began 
dancing directly and purposefully 
toward the shadows of a clump of 
artificial palms near one comer of 
the room. There was an exit to the 
garden behind the palms. 

Half way there they passed a se- 
cluded booth from which pro- 
truded a long leg clad in black 
mesh stocking. Hyrel paused as he 
recognized that part of the cos- 
tume. It was she! The girl! The 
one he had met so briefly the night 
before! 

His arm slid away from the Per- 
sian dancer, took hold of the mesh- 
clad leg, and pulled. A female form 
followed the leg from the booth 
and fell into his arms. He held her 
tightly, kissed her white neck, let 
her perfume send his thoughts reel- 
ing. 

"Been looking for me, honey?" 
she whispered, her voice deep and 
throaty. 

"You know it!" 

He began whisking her away to- 



3t 



RICHARD O. LEWIS 



ward the palms. The Persian girl 
was pulled into the booth. 

Yes, she was wearing the same 
costume she had worn the night 
before, that of a can-can dancer of 
the 90's. The mesh hose that en- 
cased her shapely legs were held up 
by flowered supporters in such a 
manner as to leave four inches of 
white leg exposed between hose top 
and lacy panties. Her skirt, frilled 
to suggest innumerable petticoats, 
fell away at each hip, leaving the 
front open to expose the full length 
of legs. She wore a wig of platinum 
hair encrusted with jewels that 
sparkled in the lights. Her jewel- 
studded mask was as white as her 
hair and covered the upper half of 
her face, except for the large 
almond slits for her eyes. A white 
purse, jewel crusted, dangled from 
one arm. 

He stopped once before reaching 
the palms, drew her closer, kissed 
her long and ardently. Then he be- 
gan pulling her on again. 

She drew back when they 
reached the shelter of the fronds. 
"Champagne, first," she whispered 
huskily into his ear. 

His heart sank. He had very lit- 
tle money left. Well, it might buy 
a cheap brand .... 



SHE SIPPED her champagne 
slowly and provocatively across 
the table from him. Her eyes spar- 
kled behind the almond slits of her 
mask, caught the color changes and 
cast them back. She was wearing 
contact lenses of a garish green. 

He wished she would hurry with 
her drink. He had horrible visions 
of his wife at home taking off her 



telovis and coming to his chair. He 
would then have to press the 
switch that would jerk his shadowy 
self back along its invisible con- 
necting cord, jerk him back and 
leave but a small mound of clothes 
upon the chair at the table. 

Deep depression laid hold of 
him. He would not be able to see 
her after tonight until he received 
his monthly dole two weeks hence. 
She wouldn't wait that long. Some- 
one else would have her. 

Unless . . . 

Yes, he knew now that he was 
going to kill his wife as soon as the 
opportunity presented itself. It 
would be a simple matter. With the 
aid of the telporter suit, he could 
establish an iron-clad alibi. 

He took a long drink of whiskey 
and looked at the dancers about 
him. Sight of their gay costumes 
heightened his depression. He was 
wearing a cheap suit of satin, all he 
could afford. But some day soon he 
would show them! Some time soon 
he would be dressed as gaily . . . 

"Something troubling you, 
honey?" 

His gaze shot back to her and 
she blurred slightly before his eyes. 
"No. Nothing at all!" He sum- 
moned a sickly smile and clutched 
her hand in his. "Come on. Let's 
dance." 

He drew her from the chair and 
into his arms. She melted toward 
him as if desiring to become a part 
of him. A tremor of excitement 
surged through him and threat- 
ened to turn his knees into quiver- 
ing jelly. He could not make his 
feet conform to the flooding 
rhythm of the music. He half stum- 



A BOTTLE OF OLD WINE 



39 



bled, half pushed her along past the 
booths. 

In the shelter of the palms he 
drew her savagely to him. "Let's — 
let's go outside." His voice was lit- 
tle more than a croak. 

"But, honey!" She pushed her- 
self away, her low voice madden- 
ing him. "Don't you have a private 
room? A girl doesn't like to be 
taken outside . . . ." 

Her words bit into his brain like 
the blade of a hot knife. 

No, he didn't have a private 
room at the club like the others. A 
private room for his telporter re- 
ceiver, a private room where he 
could take a willing guest. No! He 
couldn't afford it! No! No! NO! 
His lot was a cheap suit of satin! 
Cheap whiskey! Cheap cham- 
pagne! A cheap shack by the 
river . . . 

An inarticulate cry escaped his 
twisted lips. He clutched her rough- 
ly to him and dragged her through 
the door and into the moonlight, 
whiskey and anger lending him 
brutal strength. 

He pulled her through the de- 
serted garden. All the others had 
private rooms! He pulled her to 
the far end, behind a clump of 
squatty firs. His hands clawed at 
her. He tried to smother her mouth 
with kisses. 

She eluded him deftly. "But, 
honey!" Her voice had gone deeper 
into her throat. "I just want to be 
sure about things. If you can't af- 
ford one of the private rooms — if 
you can't afford to show me a good 
time — if you can't come here real 
often . . ." 

The whiskey pounded and 
throbbed at his brain like blows 



from an unseen club. His ego 
curled and twisted within him like 
a headless serpent. 

"I'll have money!" he shouted, 
struggling to hold her. "I'll have 
plenty of money! After tonight!" 

"Then we'll wait," she said. 
"We'll wait until tomorrow night." 

"No!" he screamed. "You don't 
believe me! You're like the others! 
You think I'm no good! But I'll 
show you! I'll show all of you!" 



SHE HAD GONE coldly rigid in 
his arms, unyielding. 

Madness added to the pounding 
in his brain. Tears welled into his 
eyes. 

"I'll show you! I'll kill her! Then 
I'll have money!" The hands 
clutching her shoulders shook her 
drunkenly. "You wait here! I'll go 
home and kill her now! Then I'll 
be back!" 

"Silly boy!" Her low laughter 
rang hollowly in his ears. "And just 
who is it you are going to kill?" 

"My wife!" he cried. "My wife! 
I'll . . ." 

A sudden sobering thought 
struck him. He was talking too 
much. And he wasn't making sense. 
He shouldn't be telling her this. 
Anyway, he couldn't get the money 
tonight even if he did kill his wife. 

"And so you are going to kill 
your wife . . . ." 

He blinked the tears from his 
eyes. His chest was heaving, his 
heart pounding. He looked at her 
shimmering form. "Y-yes," he whis- 
pered. 

Her eyes glinted strangely in the 
light of the moon. Her handbag 
glinted as she opened it, and some- 



40 



RICHARD O. LEWIS 



thing she took from it glittered 
coldly in her hand. 

"Fool!" 

The first shot tore squarely 
through his heart. And while he 
stood staring at her, mouth agape, 
a second shot burned its way 
through his bewildered brain. 



A/TRS. HERBERT HYREL re- 
■*-'-■- moved the telovis from her 
head and laid it carefully aside. 
She uncoiled her long legs from be- 
neath her, walked to her husband's 
chair, and stood for a long moment 
looking down at him, her lips 
drawn back in contempt. Then she 
bent over him and reached down 
his thigh until her fingers contacted 
the small switch. 

Seconds later, a slight tremor 
sjiook Hyrel's body. His eyes 
snapped open, air escaped his lungs, 



his lower jaw sagged inanely, and 
his head lolled to one side. 

She stood a moment longer, 
watching his eyes become glazed 
and sightless. Then she walked to 
the telephone. 

"Police?" she said. "This is Mrs. 
Herbert Hyrel. Something horrible 
has happened to my husband. 
Please come over immediately. 
Bring a doctor." 

She hung up, went to her bath- 
room, stripped off her clothing, 
and slid carefully out of her tel- 
porter suit. This she folded neatly 
and tucked away into the false back 
of the medicine cabinet. She found 
a fresh pair of blue, plastifur pa- 
jamas and got into them. 

She was just arriving back into 
the living room, tying the cord of 
her dressing gown about her slim 
waist, when she heard the sound of 
the police siren out front. 



■ THE END - 



DEPARTMENT OF SAFE PREDICTIONS 

CAUTIOUSLY, modestly, and with full knowledge of the quantities 
of fine science fiction being published these days, we guarantee that 
A CASE OF CONSCIENCE, by James Blish, will rate as one of the 
best five short novels of 1953. An outstandingly complete and con- 
vincing examination of an alien planet and its civilization ; a compel- 
ling portrait of a highly unusual, and unusually human, hero; a sus- 
penseful development of a complex problem which will leave you 
with plenty to ponder and argue — this is the stuff of which classics 
are made, and it's coming in the September issue (on sale July 10). 
IF is proud of this story; you won't want to miss it! 




Sound the fanfare! Beat the drums! 
Shout hosannas! Here he comes . . . 



CELEBRITY 

By James McKimmey, Jr. 



Illustrated by PAUL ORBAN 



JUNE 19, 1978. Celebrity day. monds. A bird chirped. Another. 

The city stretched. Empty The city yawned, 

streets glistened from the bath of Rows of houses lay like square 

a water truck. Dew-wet grass ivory beads on patches of green 

winked at the fresh peeping sun, felt. A boy drove his bicycle down 

like millions of shimmering dia- the middle of an elm-bordered av- 

41 



«: 



JAMES McKIMMEY, JR. 



enue, whistling loudly, while tightly 
rolled newspapers arced from his 
hand and slapped against porches. 

Lights snapped on in a thousand 
windows, shining yellowly against 
the cool whiteness of dawn. Men 
blinked and touched beard-stub- 
bled chins. Women moved sleepily 
toward porcelain and chrome kitch- 
ens. 

A truck roared and garbage pails 
rattled. There was a smell of sour 
orange rinds and wet leaves and un- 
folding flowers. Over this came the 
smell of toasting bread and frying 
bacon. 

Doors swung open, slippered feet 
padded across porches and hands 
groped for the rolled newspapers. 
The air was stricken with the blar- 
ing sound of transcribed music and 
the excited voices of commercial 
announcers. The doors swung shut 
and the sounds were muted. 

A million people shifted and 
stretched and scratched. The sun 
rose above the horizon. 

Celebrity day. 



DOORS SLAMMED again, 
and half-consumed cups of 
coffee lay cooling behind. Children 
wiped at sleepy eyes and mothers 
swept crumbs, touching self-con- 
scious fingers at their own bed-ruf- 
fled hair. Laborers and clerks and 
lawyers and doctors strode down 
sidewalks and climbed into automo- 
biles and busses and sleek-nosed ele- 
vated trains. The city moved. 

To the center of the city, where 
the tall buildings stretched to the 
lighting sky, came the horde, like 
thousands of ants toward a comb of 
honey. Wheels sang and whined. 



Horns blasted. Whistles blew. 

And waiting, strung above the 
wide streets between the cold mar- 
quees and the dead neon tubes, 
were the banners and the flags and 
the bunting. 

The air warmed and the sun 
brightened. Voices chattered. El- 
bows nudged. Mouths smiled, teeth 
shone, and there was the sound of 
laughter, rising over the pushing 
throngs. The city was happy. 

The bunting dipped and the 
banners fluttered and the flags 
whipped. At the edge of the city, 
the airport tightened itself. Wait- 
ing, waiting for the silver and blue 
rocket. The rocket of the Celebrity. 

A large hotel, towering above the 
pulsing streets, began the quiver of 
activity. As though a great electric 
current had been run through its 
cubes and shafts and hollows, the 
hotel crackled. Desk clerks clicked 
bells and bell boys hopped. Eleva- 
tors rose and fell. In the cellar, 
wine bottles were dusted by quick, 
nervous hands. In the kitchen, a 
towering cake was frosted and dec- 
orated. Orders cracked. Hands 
flew and feet chattered against tile. 
In one rich expansive suite a giant 
hoop of multi-colored flowers was 
placed in the center of a room. 

It was in the air. Laughter, awe, 
worship, excitement! 

Ropes went up and stretched be- 
tween lamp posts. Blue-coated men 
on horses began blocking streets. 
Old women with wooden boxes, 
children with flashing eyes, men in 
rich suits and tattered suits began 
filling the sidewalks. 

Curbs became lined with people. 
Bars threw open doors and fresh 
air met stale air. Men with fat 



CELEBRITY 

faces, thin faces, white faces, red 
faces, twitching with the anticipa- 
tion of holiday freedom, gulped 
jiggers of raw whiskey and shud- 
dered happily. 

Children giggled and yelled and 
sprinted in crazy zig-zags. Men in 
white caps hustled in front of the 
lined curbs, shouting, carrying 
their boxes of ice-cream. Men with 
buttons, men with pennants, men 
with balloons joined the shouting, 
and the sound rose in the air and 
the city smiled and shifted and its 
heart pounded. 

The hotel whirred inside itself. 
The airport tensed and searched the 
sky. 



TIME MOVED and the swell- 
ing throngs jammed the side- 
walks, raising their strengthening 
sound between the tall buildings. 
Windows popped open and faces 
beamed. Tentative showers of con- 
fetti drifted down through the air. 

The city waited, its pulse thump- 
ing. 

The rocket was a black point in 
the sky. It grew. White-suited men 
scattered over the landing strip. 
Photographers crouched. Bulbs 
snapped into reflectors. Cameras 
pointed. 

The rocket landed. A door 
snapped open. Blue uniforms con- 
verged and flash bulbs popped. 
There were shouts and orders and 



43 

men running. Gates swung and 
there was a blue-rimmed move- 
ment to a black open car. Sirens 
moaned, screamed. And the black 
car was moving swiftly into the 
city. 

Beneath the buildings, marching 
bands in red and blue and yellow 
uniforms stood assembled. Girls in 
short skirts and tassled hats spun 
silver batons into the warm air. 
Bare legs kicked. Black boots 
flashed. 

The crowd swayed against the 
ropes, and there was laughter and 
sweating and squinting. 

The black car reached the heart 
of the city. Sirens died. Rows of 
men snapped to attention. Police- 
men aligned their motorcycles. 

A baton shimmered high against 
the sun and came down. 

A cymbal crashed. Drums 
cracked. Music blared. And there 
was a movement down the street. 

The black car rolled along, while 
tape swept down from the build- 
ings in long swirling ribbons. There 
was a snow of confetti. And from 
the throats of the people came the 
first roar. It grew, building, build- 
ing in volume, and the city thun- 
dered its welcome to the man sit- 
ting upon the back of the open car, 
the small man who tipped his hat 
and smiled and blinked behind his 
glasses: Joseph S. Stettison, B.A., 
B.S., M.S., M.D., Ph.D., L.M. 
(Hon.), F.R.C.O.G. 



- THE END - 



C.I.B. Agent Pell used his head, even if he did rely on hunches 
more than on the computer. In fact, when the game got rough, 
he found that to use his head, he first had to keep it ... , 



Brink of 

MADNESS 



By Walt Sheldon 



Illustrated by KELLY FREAS 



THE NIGHT the visitors came 
Richard Pell worked late 
among the great banks of crimino- 
logical computers. He whistled to 
himself, knowing that he was way 
ofT key but not caring. Ciel, his 
wife, was still in his mind's eye; 
he'd seen her on the viewer and 
talked with her not ten minutes ago. 

"Be home shortly, baby," he'd 
said, "soon as I fill in a form or 
two." 

"AH right, dear. I'll wait," she'd 
answered, with just the slightest 
tone of doubt. 

It was an important night. It 
was at once their second anniver- 
sary and the beginning of their sec- 
ond honeymoon. Just how Pell — 
knobby, more or less homely, and 
easygoing — had won himself a 



lovely, long-limbed blonde like Ciel 
was something . of a mystery to 
many of their friends. She could 
hardly have married him for his 
money. Central Investigation Bu- 
reau agents were lucky if all their 
extras and bonuses brought them 
up to a thousand credits a year. 

Pell had unquestionably caught 
her in a romantic moment. Maybe 
that was part of the trouble — part 
of the reason they needed this sec- 
ond honeymoon, this period of re- 
acquaintance so badly. Being the 
wife of a C.I.B. agent meant sitting 
at home nine-tenths of the time 
while he was working on a case, and 
then not hearing about the case for 
security reasons during the one- 
tenth of the time he was with her. 

Four times now Pell had been 



45 



46 



WALT SHELDON 



ready to take his vacation; four 
times last minute business had come 
up. No more, though, by golly. To- 
night he'd get out of here just as 
quickly as . . . 

The Identifier, beyond the door, 
began to hum. That meant some- 
body was putting his hand to the 
opaque screen, and if the scanner 
recognized the fingerprints the 
door would open. Pell scowled at 
the bulky shadows outside. 

"Go away, whoever you are," he 
muttered to himself. 

Some of the other agents were 
out there, no doubt; they were al- 
ways getting sudden inspirations 
late at night and returning to use 
the computers again. In fact, it had 
been tactifully suggested to Agent 
Richard Pell that he might use the 
computers a little more himself in- 
stead of relying on hunches as he 
so often did. "Investigation's a cold 
science, not a fancy art," Chief 
Larkin was fond of saying to the 
group — with his eyes on Pell. 

Well, whoever it was. Pell was 
definitely through. No time-wasting 
conversation for him! He was 
ready for six glorious weeks of 
saved-up vacation time. He and 
Ciel, early tomorrow, would grab 
a rocket for one of the Moon re- 
sorts, and there they'd just loaf and 
relax and pay attention to each 
other. Try to regain whatever it 
was they'd had. . . . 



THE DOOR opened and Chief 
Larkin walked in. 
Chief Eustace J. Larkin was tall, 
in his forties, but still boyishly hand- 
some. He dressed expensively and 



well. He was dynamic and confident 
and he always had about him just 
the faintest aroma of very expensive 
shaving cologne. He had a Master's 
degree in criminology and his rise 
to the post of Director, C.I.B., had 
been sudden, dramatic and impres- 
sive. Not the least of his talents was 
a keen sense of public relations. 

"I — uh — was on my way out," 
said Pell. He reached for his hat. 
Funny about hats : few people trav- 
eled topside anymore, and in the 
climate-conditioned tunnels you 
didn't need a hat. But C.I.B. 
agents had to be neat and digni- 
fied; regulations required hats and 
ties and cuffs and lapels. Thus, you 
could always spot a C.I.B. agent a 
mile away. 

Larkin had a dimple when he 
smiled and Pell would bet he knew 
it. "We'd have called your home if 
we hadn't found you here. Sit 
down, Dick." 

Pell sat glumly. For the first 
time, he noticed the men who had 
come in with the Chief. He recog- 
nized both. One was fiftyish, tall, 
solidly-built and well-dressed on 
the conservative side. His face was 
strong, square and oddly pale, as if 
someone had taken finest white 
marble and roughly hacked a face 
into it. Pell had seen that face in 
faxpapers often. The man was 
Theodor Rysland, once a wealthy 
corporation lawyer, now a World 
Government adviser in an unoffi- 
cial way. Some admired him as a 
selfless public servant; others swore 
he was a power-mad tyrant. Few 
were indifferent. 

"I'm sure you recognize Mr. Rys- 
laiidj" said Chief Larkin, smiling. 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



47 



"And this is Dr. Walter Nebel, of 
the World Department of Educa- 
tion." 

Dr. Walter Nebel was slight and 
had a head remarkably tiny in pro- 
portion to the rest of him. He wore 
cropped hair. His eyes were turtle- 
lidded and at first impression sleepy, 
and then, with a second look — - 
wary. Pell remembered that he had 
won fame some time ago by discov- 
ering the electrolytic enzyme in the 
thought process. Pell wasn't sure 
exactly what this was, but the fax- 
papers had certainly made a fuss 
about it at the time. 

He shook hands with the two 
men and then said to Larkin, 
"What's up?" 

"Patience," said Larkin and 
shuffled chairs into place. 

Rysland sat down solidly and 
gravely; Nebel perched. Rysland 
looked at Pell with a strong, level 
stare and said, "It's my sincere 
hope that this meeting tonight will 
prevent resumption of the war with 
Venus.'; 

Larkin said, "Amen." 

Pell stared back in some surprise. 
High-level stuff! 

Rysland saw his stare and 
chuckled. "Chief Larkin tells me 
your sympathies are more or less 
Universalist. Not that it would be 
necessary, but it helps." 

"Oh," said Pell, with mild be- 
wilderment. The difference be- 
tween the Universal and Defense 
parties was pretty clear-cut. The 
Universalists hoped to resume full 
relations with Venus and bring 
about a really secure peace through 
friendship and trade. It would ad- 
mittedly be a tough struggle, and 



the Defenders didn't think it was 
possible. Forget Venus, said they; 
fortify Earth, keep the line of de- 
marcation on Mars, and sit tight. 

"But there is, as you may know," 
said Rysland, "a third course in our 
relations with Venus." 

"There is?" asked Pell. From the 
corner of his eye he saw Chief Lar- 
kin looking at him with an expres- 
sion of — what, amusement? Yes, 
amusement, largely, but with a 
touch of contempt, too, perhaps. 
Hard to say. 

"The third course," said Rys- 
land, not smiling, "would be to at- 
tack Venus again, resume the war, 
and hope to win quickly. We know 
Venus is exhausted from the recent 
struggle. A sudden, forceful attack 
miglit possibly subjugate her. At 
least, that is the argument of a cer- 
tain group called the Supremists." 

Dr. Nebel spoke for the first 
time. Pell realized that the man 
had been watching him closely. His 
voice was sibilant ; it seemed to drag 
itself through wet grass. "Also Ve- 
nus is psychologically unprepared 
for war; the Supremists believe that, 
too." 

Pell reached back into his mem- 
ory. The Supremists. They were a 
minor political party — sort of a cult, 
too. The outfit had sprung up in 
the last year or so. Supremists be- 
lieved that Earthmen, above all 
other creatures, had a destiny — 
were chosen — were supreme. They 
had several followers as delegates in 
World Congress. General impres- 
sion: slightly crackpot. 

"The Supremists," said Theodor 
Rysland, tapping his hard, white 
palm, and leaning forward, "have 



48 



WALT SHELDON 



been calling for attack. Aggression. 
Starting the war with Venus all 
over again. And they're not only a 
vociferous nuisance. They have an 
appeal in this business of Earth- 
man's supremacy. They're gaining 
converts every day. In short, 
they've now become dangerous." 



>ELL THOUGHT it over as 
Rysland talked. Certainly the 
idea of renewed war was nightmar- 
ish. He'd been in the last one : who 
hadn't? It had started in 2117, the 
year he was born, and it had 
dragged on for twenty-five years 
until T-day and the truce. The 
causes? Well, both Earth and Ve- 
nus worked the mineral deposits on 
Mars unimpeded by the non-in- 
telligent insectile life on that 
planet, and the original arguments 
had been about those mineral de- 
posits, though there were enough 
for a dozen planets there. The 
causes were more complicated and 
obscure than that. Semantics, part- 
ly. There was freedom as Earth- 
men saw it and freedom as the Ve- 
nusians saw it. Same with honor 
and good and evil. They were al- 
ways two different things. And 
then Venusians had a greenish 
tinge to their skins and called the 
Earthmen, in their clicking lan- 
guage, "Pink-faces." And both 
Earthmen and Venusians hated 
like the devil to see the other get 
away with anything. 

Anyway, there had been war, 
terrible war. Space battle, air bat- 
tle, landing, repulse. Stalemate. Fi- 
nally, through utter weariness per- 
haps, truce. Now, a taut, uneasy, 
suspicious peace. Communications 



opened, a few art objects mutually 
exchanged. Immigration for a few 
Venusian dancers or students or 
diplomats. It wasn't much, but it 
was all in the right direction. At 
least Pell felt so. 

Rysland was saying: "We're not 
sure, of course, but we suspect — 
we feel — that more than mere acci- 
dent may be behind these Suprem- 
ists." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"Someone seeking power, per- 
haps. As I said, we don't know. 
We want to find out. Dr. Nebel has 
been interested for some time in 
the curious psychology of these Su- 
premists — their blind, unthinking 
loyalty to their cause, for instance. 
He is, as you know, a special assist- 
ant in the Department of Educa- 
tion. He asked my help in arrang- 
ing for an investigation, and I 
agreed with him wholeheartedly 
that one should be made." 

"And I told these gentlemen," 
said Chief Larkin, "that I'd put a 
detail on it right away." 

Now Pell believed he saw 
through it. Larkin didn't believe it 
was important at all; he was just 
obliging these Vips. A man couldn't 
have too many friends in World 
Government circles, after all. But of 
course Larkin couldn't afford to 
put one of his bright, machine- 
minded boys on it, and so Pell was 
the patsy. 

"Could I remind you," said Pell, 
"that my vacation is supposed to 
start tomorrow?" 

"Now, now, Dick," said Larkin, 
turning on the personality, "this 
won't take you long. Just a routine 
report. The computers ought to 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



49 



give you all the information you 
need in less than a day." 

"That's what you always say, ev- 
ery time I'm ready to take a vaca- 
tion. I've been saving up for two 
years now . . . ." 

"Dick, that's hardly the right at- 
titude for an agent who is so close 
to making second grade." 

Larkin had him over a barrel, 
there. Pell desperately wanted to 
make his promotion. Second-grad- 
ers didn't spend their time at the 
control banks gathering data; they 
did mostly desk work and evalu- 
ation. They had a little more time 
to spend with their wives. He said, 
"Okay, okay," and got up. 

"Where are you going?" 

"To get my wife on the viewer 
and tell her I won't be home for a 
while after all." 

He left the three of them 
chuckling and thought: He jests at 
scars who never felt a wound. He 
didn't say it aloud. You could quote 
formulae or scientific precepts in 
front of Larkin, but not Shake- 
speare. 



HE PUNCHED OUT his home 
number and waited until 
Ciel's image swirled into the view- 
plate. His heart went boppety-bop 
as it always did. Hair of polished 
gold. Dark eyes, ripe olives, a little 
large for her face and sometimes 
deep and fathomless. She wore a 
loose, filmy nightgown and the sug- 
gestion of her body under it was 
enough to bring on a touch of mad- 
ness in him. 

"Let me say it," Ceil said. She 
wasn't smiling. "You won't be 



home for a while. You've got an- 
other case." 

"Well — yes. That's it, more or 
less." Pell swallowed. 

"Oh, Dick." 

"I'm sorry, honey. It's just that 
something important came up. I've 
got a conference on my hands. It 
shouldn't take more than an hour." 

"And we were supposed to leave 
for the moon in the morning." 

"Listen, baby, this is absolutely 
the last time. I mean it. As soon as 
this thing is washed up we'll really 
take that vacation. Look, I'll tell 
you what, I'll meet you somewhere 
in an hour. We'll have some fun — 
take in a floor show — drink a little 
meth. We haven't done that in a 
long time. How about the Stardust 
Cafe? I hear they've got a terrific 
new mentalist there." 

Ciel said, "No." 

"Don't be like that. We need an 
evening out. It'll hold us until I get 
this new case washed up. That 
won't be long, but at least we'll 
have a little relaxation." 

Ciel said, "Well . . ." 

"Attababy. One hour. Absolute- 
ly. You just go to Station B-90, 
take the lift to topside and it's right 
on Shapley Boulevard there. You 
can't miss it." 

"I know where it is," said Ciel. 
She shook her finger. "Richard 
Pell, so help me, if you stand me up 
this time . . ." 

"Baby!" he said in a tone of 
deep injury. 

"Goodbye, Dick." She clicked 
off. 

Pell had the feeling that even the 
free-flowing meth and the gaiety of 
the Stardust Cafe wouldn't really 



WALT SHELDON 



help matters much. He sighed 
deeply as he turned and went back 
into the other room. 



Chapter II 



A LITTLE OVER an hour 
later he stepped from the 
elevator kiosk at Station B-90 and 
breathed the night air of topside. 
It was less pure actually than the 
carefully controlled tunnel air, but 
it was somehow infinitely more 
wonderful. At least to a sentimen- 
tal primitive boob like Richard Pell, 
it was. Oh, he knew that it was in- 
finitely more sensible to live and 
work entirely underground as peo- 
ple did these days— but just the 
same he loved the look of the black 
sky with the crushed diamonds of 
stars thrown across it and he loved 
the uneven breeze and the faint 
smell of trees and grass. 

This particular topside section 
was given over to entertainment; 
all about him were theaters and 
cafes and picnic groves and air- 
ports for flying sports. A few hun- 
dred feet ahead he could see the 
three-dimensional atmospheric pro- 
jection that marked the Stardust 
Cafe, and he could hear faintly the 
mournful sound of a Venusian la- 
ment being played by the askarins. 
He was glad they hadn't banned 
Venusian music, anyway, although 
he wouldn't be surprised if they 
did, some day. 

That was one of the things these 
Supremists were trying to do. Rys- 
land and Chief Larkin had given 
him a long and careful briefing on 
the outfit so that he could start 



work tomorrow with his partner, 
Steve Kronski. Steve, of course, 
would shrug phlegmatically, swing 
his big shoulders toward the com- 
puter rooms and say, "Let's go to 
work." It would be just another as- 
signment to him. 

As a matter of fact, the job 
would be not without a certain 
amount of interest. There were a 
couple of puzzling things about 
these Supremists that Rysland had 
pointed out. First of all, they didn't 
seem to be at all organized or in- 
corporated. No headquarters, no 
officers that anybody knew about. 
They just were. It was a complete 
mystery how a man became a Su- 
premist, how they kept getting new 
members all the time. Yet you 
couldn't miss a Supremist when- 
ever you met one. Before the con- 
versation was half over he'd start 
spouting about the destiny of 
Earthmen and the general inferior- 
ity of all other creatures and so on. 
It sounded like hogwash to Pell. He 
wondered how such an attitude 
could survive in a scientific age. 

Nor would a Supremist be essen- 
tially a moron or a neurotic; they 
were found in all walks of life, at 
all educational and emotional lev- 
els. Rysland told how he had ques- 
tioned a few, trying to discover 
when, where and how they joined 
the movement: Apparently there 
was nothing to join, at least to hear 
them tell it. They just knew one day 
that they were Supremists, and that 
was the word. Rysland had shaken 
his head sadly and said, "Their be- 
lief is completely without logic — 
and maybe that's what makes it so 
strong. Maybe that's what fright- 
ens me about it." 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



51 



^KAY, TOMORROW then 
Pell would tackle it. Tomor- 
row he'd think about it. Right now 
he had a date with his best girl. 

He entered the cafe and the 
music of the askarins swirled more 
loudly about his head and he 
looked through the smoke and col- 
ored light until he spotted Ciel sit- 
ting in a rear booth. The place was 
crowded. On the small dance floor 
before the orchestra nearly nude 
Venusian girls were going through 
the writhing motions of a serpen- 
tine dance. Their greenish skins 
shimmered iridescently. The sad- 
faced Venusian musicians on the 
band-stand waved their graceful, 
spatulated fingers over th&ir curi- 
ous, boxlike askarins, producing 
changing tones and overtones by 
the altered capacitance. A rocket- 
man in the black and silver uni- 
form of the Space Force was trying 
to stumble drunkenly out on to the 
floor with the dancers and his 
friends were holding him back. 
There was much laughter about the 
whole thing. The Venusian girls 
kept dancing and didn't change 
their flat, almost lifeless expressions. 

Ciel looked up without smiling 
when he got to the booth. She had 
a half -finished glass of meth before 
her. . 

He tried a smile anyway. "Hello, 
baby." He sat down. 

She said, "I didn't really think 
you'd get here. I could have had 
dates with exactly eleven spacemen. 
I kept count." 

"You have been faithful to me, 
Cynara, in your fashion. I need a 
drink and don't want to wait for 
the waitress. Mind?" He took her 
half glass of meth and tossed it 



down. He felt the wonderful illu- 
sion of an explosion in his skull, and 
it seemed to him that his body was 
suddenly the strongest in the world 
and that he could whip everybody 
in the joint with one arm tied be- 
hind his back. He said, "Wow." 

Ciel tried a smile now. "It does 
that to you when you're not used 
to it." 

The first effect passed and he 
felt only the warmth oj the drink. 
He signaled a waitress and ordered 
a couple more. "Don't forget to re- 
mind me to take a hangover pill 
before I go to work in the morn- 
ing," he told Ciel. 

"You — you are going to work in 
the morning, then?" 

"Afraid I can't get out of it." 

"And the moon trip's off?" 

"Not off, just postponed. We'll 
get to it, don't worry." 

"Dick." 

"Yes?" 

"I can take it just so long, put- 
ting our vacation off and off and 
off." Her eyes were earnest, liquid 
and opaque. "I've been thinking 
about it. Trying to arrive at some- 
thing. I'm beginning to wonder, 
Dick, if maybe we hadn't just bet- 
ter, well — call it quits, or some- 
thing." 

He stared at her. "Baby, what 
are you saying?" 



A SUDDEN, fanfare-like blast 
from the orchestra inter- 
rupted. They looked at the dance 
floor. There was a flash of light, a 
swirling of jnist, and within the 
space of a second the Venusian 
girls suddenly disappeared and 
their place was taken by a tall. 



St 



WALT SHELDON 



hawk-nosed, dark-eyed man with a 
cloak slung dramatically over one 
shoulder. The audience applauded. 

"That's Marco, the new mental- 
ist," said Pell. 

Ciel shrugged to show that she 
wasn't particularly impressed. 
Neither was Pell, to tell the truth. 
Mentalists were all the rage, partly 
because everybody could practice a 
little amateur telepathy and hypno- 
tism in his own home. Mentalists, 
of course, made a career of it and 
were much better at it than any- 
body else. 

Their drinks came and they 
watched Marco go through his act 
in a rather gloomy silence. Marco 
was skillful, but not especially un- 
usual. He did the usual stuff: 
calling out things that people wrote 
on slips of paper, calling out dates 
on coins, and even engaging in 
mental duels wherein the chal- 
lenger wrote a phrase, concealed it 
from Marco, and then deliberately 
tried to keep him from reading it 
telepathically. He had the usual 
hypnotism session with volunteers 
who were certain they could resist. 
He made them hop around the 
stage like monkeys, burn their fin- 
gers on pieces of ice, and so on. 
The ■ audience roared with laugh- 
ter. Pell and Ciel just kept staring. 

When Marco had finished his act 
and the thundering applause had 
faded the Venusian dancing girls 
came back on the stage again. 

Ciel yawned. 

Pell said, "Me, too. Let's get out 
of here." 

It wasn't until they were home in 
their underground apartment and 
getting ready for bed that Ciel 
turned to him and said, "You see?" 



He was buttoning his pajamas. 
"See what?" 

"It's us, Dick. It's not the floor 
show, or the meth, or anything — 
it's us. We can't enjoy anything to- 
gether any more." 

He said, "Now wait a minute . . ." 

But she had already stepped into 
the bedroom and slammed the 
door. He heard the lock click. 

"Hey," he said, "what am I sup- 
posed to do, sleep out here?" 
, He took the ensuing silence to 
mean that he was. 

And he did. 



THE NEXT MORNING, as he 
came into the office, Pell 
scowled deeply and went to his desk 
without saying good morning to 
anybody. Ciel had kept herself 
locked in the bedroom and he had 
made his own breakfast. How it 
was all going to end he didn't 
know. He had the feeling that she 
was working herself up to the de- 
cision to leave him. And the real 
hell of it was that he couldn't 
exactly blame her. 

"Morning, partner," said a voice 
above him. He looked up. Way up. 
Steve Kronski was built along the 
general lines of a water buffalo. 
The usual battered grin was 
smeared across his face. "I see we 
got a new assignment." 

"Oh — did Larkin brief you on it 
already?" 

"Yeah. Before I could get my 
hat off. Funny set-up, all right. I 
punched for basic data before you 
got in. Hardly any." 

"Maybe that means something in 
itself. Maybe somebody saw to it 
that the information never got 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



53 



into the central tanks." 

Tlie C.I.B. computers could be 
hooked into the central banks which 
stored information on nearly every- 
thing and everybody. If you incor- 
porated, filed for a patent, paid 
taxes, voted, or just were born, the 
central banks had an electronic 
record of it. 

Kronski jerked his thumb toward 
the computer room. "I punched for 
names of Supremist members 
coupla minutes ago. Thought may- 
be we could start in that way." 

Pell followed, his mind not really 
on the job yet. He wasn't at his 
best working with the computers, 
and yet operating them was ninety 
per cent of investigation. He sup- 
posed he'd get used to it sometime. 

Three walls of the big computer 
room were lined with control racks, 
consisting mostly of keyboard set- 
ups. Code symbols and index cards 
were placed in handy positions. The 
C.I.B. circuits, of course, were 
adapted to the specialized work of 
investigation. In the memory banks 
of tubes and relays there was a 
master file of all names — aliases and 
nicknames included — with which 
the organization had ever been con- 
cerned. Criminals, witnesses, com- 
plaints, everyone. Code numbers 
linked to the names showed where 
data on their owner could be found. 
A name picked at random might 
show that person to have data in 
the suspect file, the arrest file, the 
psychological file, the modus oper- 
andi file, and so forth. Any of the 
data in these files could be checked, 
conversely, against the names. 

Kronski walked over to where let- 
ter sized cards were flipping from a 
slot into a small bin. He said, 



"Didn't even have to dial in Cen- 
tral Data for these. Seems we got a 
lot of Supremist members right in 
our own little collection." 

Pell picked up one of the cards 
and examined it idly. Vertical col- 
umns were inscribed along the card, 
each with a heading, and with fur- 
ther sub-headed columns. Under 
the column marked Modus Oper- 
andi, for instance, there were sub- 
columns titled Person Attacked, 
Property Attacked, How Attacked, 
Means of Attack, Object of Attack, 
and Trademark. Columns of digits, 
one to nine, were under each item. 
If the digits 3 and 2 were punched 
under Trademark the number 32 
could be fed into the Operational 
Data machine and this machine 
would then give back the informa- 
tion on a printed slip that number 
32 stood for the trademark of leav- 
ing cigar butts at the scene of the 
crime. 

"Got five hundred now," said 
Kronski. "I'll let a few more run 
in case we need alternates." 

"Okay," said Pell. "I'll start this 
batch through the analyzer." 

He took the cards across the room 
to a machine about twenty feet 
long and dropped them into the 
feeder at one end. Channels and 
rollers ran along the top of this 
machine and under them were a 
series of vertical slots into which 
the selected cards could drop. He 
cleared the previous setting and ran 
the pointer to Constants. He set 
the qualitative dial to 85%. This 
meant that on the first run the 
punch hole combinations in the 
cards would be scanned and any 
item common to 85% of the total 
would be registered in a relay. Up- 



54 



WALT SHELDON 



on the second run the machine 
would select the cards with this con- 
stant and drop them into a slot cor- 
responding with that heading. Fur- 
ther scanning, within the slot itself, 
would pick out the constant num- 
ber. 

Pell started the rollers whirring. 

Kronski came over. He rubbed 
his battered nose. "Hope we get 
outside on this case. I'm gettin' 
sick o' the office. Haven't been out 
in weeks." 

Pell nodded. Oh, for the life of 
a C.I.B. man. In teleplays they cor- 
nered desperate criminals in the 
dark ruins of the ancient cities top- 
side, and fought it out with freezers. 
The fact was, although regulations 
called for them to carry freezers in 
their shoulder holsters, one in a 
thousand ever got a chance to use 
them. 

Pell said, "Maybe you need a 
vacation." 

"Maybe. Only I keep putting my 
vacation off. Got a whole month 
saved up now." 

"Me, too." Pell sighed. Ciel 
would probably be pacing the floor 
back home now, trying to make up 
her mind. To break it up, or not 
to break it up? There would be no 
difficulty, really: she had been a 
pretty good commercial artist be- 
fore they were married and she 
wouldn't have any trouble finding 
a job again somewhere in World 
City. 

The rollers kept whirring and 
the cards flipping along with a whis- 
pering sound. 

"Wonder what we're looking in- 
to these Supremists for?" asked 
Kronski. "I always thought they 



were some kind of harmless crack- 
pots." 

"The Chief doesn't think so. 
Neither does Theodor Rysland." He 
told Kronski more about the inter- 
view last night. 

Presently the machine stopped, 
clicked several times and began roll- 
ing the other way. 

"Well, it found something," said 
Kronski. 

They kept watching. Oh, for the 
life of a C.I.B. man. Cards began 
to drop into one of the slots. The 
main heading was Physical and the 
sub-heading Medical History. Pell 
frowned and said, "Certainly didn't 
expect to find a constant in this 
department." He picked up a few 
of the first cards and looked at 
them, hoping to catch the constant 
by eye. He caught it. "What's 445 
under this heading?" 



■RONSKI SAID, "I'll find 
'Out," and stepped over to the 
Operational Data board. He 
worked it, took the printed slip that 
came out and called back: "Record 
of inoculation." 

"That's a funny one." 

"Yup. Sure is." Kronski stared at 
the slip and scratched his neck. "It 
must be just any old kind inocula- 
tion. If it was special — like typhoid 
or tetanus or something — it'd have 
another digit." 

"There must be some other boil- 
downs, if we could think of them." 
Pell was frowning heavily. Some of 
the other men, used to the ma- 
chines, could grab a boil-down out 
of thin air, run the cards again and 
get another significant constant. 
The machine, however, inhibited 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



55 



Pell. It made him feel uneasy and 
stupid whenever he was around it. 

"How about location?" suggested 
Kronski. 

Pell shook his head. "I checked 
a few by eye. All different numbers 
under location. Some of 'em come 
from World City, some from Mars 
Landing, some from way out in the 
sticks. Nothing significant there." 

"Maybe what we need is a cup 
of coffee." 

Pell grinned. "Best idea all morn- 
ing. Come on." 

Some minutes later they sat 
across from each other at a table in 
the big cafeteria on the seventy- 
third level. It was beginning to be 
crowded now with personnel from 
other departments and bureaus. 
The coffee urge came for nearly 
everybody in the government offices 
at about the same time. Pell was 
studying by eye a handful of spare 
data cards he'd brought along and 
Kronski was reading faxpaper clip- 
pings from a large manila envelope 
marked SupTemist Party. Just on a 
vague hunch Pell had viewplated 
Central Public Relations and had 
them send the envelope down by 
tube. 

"Prominent Educator Addresses 
Supremist Rally," Kronski mut- 
tered. "Three Spaceport Cargomen 
Arrested at Supremist Riot. Young 
Supremists Form Rocket Club. 
Looks like anybody and everybody 
can be a Supremist. And his grand- 
mother. Wonder how they do it?" 

"Don't know." Pell wasn't really 
listening. 

"And here's a whole town went 
over to the Supremists. On the 
moon." 

"Uh-huh," said Pell. 



Kronski sipped his coffee loudly. 
A few slender, graceful young men 
from World Commerce looked at 
him distastefully. "Happened just 
this year. New Year they all went 
over. Augea, in the Hercules Moun- 
tains. Big celebration." 

Pell looked up and said, "Wait 
a minute. . ." 

"Wait for what? I'm not goin' 
anywhere. Not on this swivel-chair 
of a job, damn it." 

"New Year they all become 
Supremists. And the last week of 
December everybody on the moon 
gets his inoculations, right?" 

"Search me." 

"But I know that. I found that 
out when I was tailing those two 
gamblers who had a place on the 
moon, remember?" 

"So it may be a connection." 
Kronski shrugged. 

"It may be the place where we 
can study a bunch of these cases 
in a batch instead of picking 'em 
one by one." 

"You mean we oughta take a 
trip to the moon?" 

"Might not hurt for a few days." 

Kronski was grinning at him. 

"What are you grinning at?" 

"First you got to stay over on 
your vacation, so you can't go to 
the moon with your wife. Now all 
of a sudden you decide duty has 
got to take you to the moon, huh?" 

Pell grinned back then. "What 
are you squawking about? You said 
you wanted to get out on this case." 

Kronski, still grinning, got up. 
"I'm not complaining. I'm just 
demonstrating my powers of deduc- 
tion, as they say in teleplays. Come 
on, let's go make rocket reserva- 
tions." 



M 



WALT SHELDON 



Chapter III 



THE BIG TOURIST rocket let 
them down at the Endymion 
Crater Landing, and they went 
through the usual immigration and 
customs formalities in the under- 
ground city there. They stayed in a 
hotel overnight, Pell and Ciel look- 
ing very much like tourists, Kron- 
ski tagging along and looking faintly 
out of place. In the morning- 
morning according to the 24 hour 
earth clock, that is — they took the 
jitney rocket to the resort town of 
Augea, in the Hercules Mountains. 
The town was really a cliff dwell- 
ing, built into the side of a great 
precipice with quartz windows over- 
looking a tremendous, stark valley. 

It v\?as hard to say just what at- 
traction the moon had as a vaca- 
tion land, and it was a matter of 
unfathomable taste. You either 
liked it, or you didn't. If you didn't, 
you couldn't understand what peo- 
ple who liked it saw in it. They 
couldn't quite explain. "It's so 
quiet. It's so vast. It's so beautiful," 
they'd say, but never anything 
clearer than that. 

Augea itself was like twenty other 
resorts scattered throughout both 
the northern and southern latitudes 
of the moon. Except for the mili- 
tary posts and scientific research 
stations the moon had little value 
other than as a vacation land. Peo- 
ple came there to rest, to look at 
the bizarre landscape through 
quart2, or occasionally to don 
spacesuits and go out on guided 
exploration trips. 

Immediately after checking into 
their hotel Pell and Kronski got di- 



rections to the office of the Resident 
Surgeon and prepared to go there. 
Ciel looked on quietly as Pell 
tightened the straps of his shoulder 
holster and checked the setting on 
his freezer. 

Ciel said, "I knew it." 

"Knew what, honey?" Pell went 
to the mirror to brush his hair. He 
wasn't sure it would materially im- 
prove the beauty of his long, knob- 
by, faintly melancholy face, but he 
did it any way. 

"The minute we get here you 
have to go out on business." 

He turned, kissed her, then held 
and patted her hand. "That's just 
because I want to get it over with. 
Then I'll have time for you. Then 
we'll have lots of time together." 

She melted into him suddenly. 
She put her arms around his neck 
and held him tightly. "If I didn't 
love you, you big lug, it wouldn't 
be so bad. But, Dick, I can't go on 
like this much longer. I just can't." 

"Now, baby," he started to say. 

There was a knock on the door 
then and he knew Kronski was 
ready. He broke away from her, 
threw a kiss and said, "Later. Later, 
baby." 

She nodded and held her under 
lip in with her upper teeth. 

He sighed and left. 



>ELL AND KRONSKI left the 
hotel and started walking along 
the winding tunnel with the side 
wall of quartz. On their right the 
huge valley, with its stark, imearthly 
landshapes, stretched away. It was 
near the end of the daylight period 
and the shadows from the distant 
peaks, across the valley, were long 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



57 



and deep. Some of them, with little 
reflected light, seemed to be patches 
of nothingness. Pell fancied he 
could step through them into an- 
other dimension. 

All about them, even here in the 
side of the mountain, and behind 
the thick quartz, there was the odd, 
utterly dead silence of the moon. 

Their footsteps echoed sparsely in 
the corridor. 

Pell said to Kronski, "Got the 
story all straight?" 

"Like as if it was true." 

"Remember the signal?" 

"Sure. Soon as you say we're out 
of cigarettes. What's the matter, 
you think I'm a moron, I can't re- 
member?" 

Pell laughed and clapped him on 
the shoulder blade. 

Minutes later they turned in from 
the corridor, went through another, 
shorter passageway and then came 
to a door marked: Resident Sur- 
geon. They knocked and a deep 
voice boomed: "Come in!" 

It was a medium-sized room, 
clearly a dispensary. There was an 
operating table, a sterilizer, tall 
glass-fronted instrument 'cabinets 
and a refrigerator. At, the far end of 
the room a hulking, bear-like man 
sat behind a magnalloy desk. The 
nameplate on the desk said: Hal 
H. Wilcox, M.D. 

"Howdy, gents," said Dr. Hal H. 
Wilcox, shattering the moon-silence 
with a vengeance. "What can I do 
for you?" he was all smiles. 

That smile, decided Pell, didn't 
quite match the shrewdness of his 
eyes. Have to watch this boy, may- 
be. There was a big quartz window 
behind the man so that for the mo- 
ment Pell saw him almost in sil- 



houette. "We're from Current 
magazine," said Pell. "I'm Dick 
Pell and this is Steve Kronski. You 
got our radio, I guess." 

"Oh, yes. Yes, indeed." Wilcox 
creaked way back in his chair. 
"You're the fellas want to do a 
story on us moon surgeons." 

"That's right." Pell fumbled a 
little self-consciously with -the gra,vi- 
ty weights clipped to his trousers. 
Took a while for moon visitors t6 
get used to them, everybody said. 

"Well, I don't know exactly as 
how there's much of a story in what 
we do. We're just a bunch of saw- 
bones stationed here, that's all." 

"We're interested in the diseases 
peculiar to the moon," said Pell. 
"For instance, why do the perma- 
nent residents up here have to have 
an inoculation every year?" 

"That's for the Venusian rash. 
Thought everybody knew that." 

"Venusian rash?" 

"Nearest thing we ever had to it 
on Earth was Rocky Mountain 
Spotted Fever. It's a rickettsia 
disease. Makes a fella pretty sick; 
sometimes kills him in two, three 
days. It started when they had those 
Venusian construction workers and 
tunnel men here, oh, long before 
the war. Under certain conditions 
the rickettsia stays dormant and 
then .pops up again." 

"And the inoculation's for that?" 

"Standard. Once a year. You 
got the inoculation yourself, no 
doubt, before you jumped off for 
the moon." 

"Where does the serum or what- 
ever you call it come from?" 

Pell thought he saw Wilcox's eyes 
flicker. The doctor said, "It's 
stored at the main landings. We 



58 



WALT SHELDON 



draw it as we need it from there." 

"Have any here now?" 

Wilcox's eyes did move this time. 
He looked at the refrigerator — but 
only for the veriest moment. "Don't 
really reckon so," he said finally. 
He was staring blankly at Pell 
again. 

Pell patted his pockets, turned 
to Kronski and said, "You know, I 
think we're out of cigarettes." Be- 
fore Kronski could answer he 
moved to the big quartz window 
behind Wilcox's desk. He gazed at 
the moonscape. "Just can't get over 
how big and quiet it is," he said. 

Wilcox turned and gazed with 
him. 

Kronski drew his freezer. He 
pointed it, squeezed, and there was 
a soft, momentary buzzing and a 
twinkling of violet sparks at the 
muzzle of the weapon. 

Wilcox sat where he was, frozen, 
knowing nothing. 



PELL TURNED FAST. "Come 
on, Steve. Let's get it." They 
both stepped to the refrigerator. 

They had only seconds; Kronski' s 
weapon had been set at a low read- 
ing. The time of paralysis varied 
with the individual and Doc Wil- 
cox looked husky enough not to 
stay frozen very long. If Pell and 
Kronski returned to their original 
positions after he came out of it 
he would never know that anything 
had happened. 

Far back on a lower shelf of the 
refrigerator were a dozen small 
bottles of the same type. Pell 
grabbed one, glanced at the label, 
nodded, and dropped it into his 



pocket. They took their places 
again. 

A few moments later Wilcox 
moved slightly and said, "Yup. 
Moon's a funny place all right. You 
either like it or you don't." 

The rest of the conversation was 
fairly uninspired. Pell didn't want 
to walk out too quickly, and had 
to keep up the pretense of inter- 
viewing Wilcox for a magazine 
story. It wasn't easy. They excused 
themselves finally, saying they'd be 
back for more information as soon 
as they made up some notes and 
got the overall picture — whatever 
that meant. Wilcox seemed satisfied 
with it. 

They hurried back along the tun- 
nel, descended to another level and 
found the Augea Post Office. They 
showed the postmaster their C.I.B. 
shields and identification cards 
and arranged for quick and special 
handling for the bottle of vaccine. 
Pell marked it Attention, Lab, and 
it was scheduled to take a quick 
rocket to the Endymion landing and 
the next unmanned mail rocket 
back to World City. 

Pell stayed at the Post Office to 
make out a quick report on the 
incident so he wouldn't have to 
bore Ciel by doing it in the room, 
and Kronski sauntered on back to 
the hotel. 

There was a fax receiver there 
and Pell, missing the hourly voice 
bulletins of World City Under- 
ground, checked it for news. The 
pages were coming out in a long 
tongue. He looked at the first head- 
line: 

VENUSIAN OBSERVERS AD- 
MITTED TO WORLD CONGRESS 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



59 



Well, that was a step in the right 
direction. Maybe one of these days 
they'd get around to a Solar Con- 
gress, as they ought to. The recent 
open war with Venus had taught 
both Earthmen and Venusians a lot 
about space travel, and it was prob- 
ably possible to explore the solar 
system further right now. No one 
had yet gone beyond the asteroids. 
Recent observations from the tele- 
scope stations here on the moon had 
found what seemed to be geometri- 
cal markings on some of Jupiter's 
satellites. Life there? Could be. 
Candidates for a brotherhood of 
the zodiac — if both Terrans and 
Venusians could get the concept of 
brotherhood pounded through their 
still partially savage skulls. 

Another headline: 

'WE CAN LICK UNIVERSE' 
—WAR SEC 

Not so good, that. Loose talk. 
Actually it was an Undersecretary 
of War who had said it. Pell ran 
over the rest of the article quickly 
and came to what seemed to him 
a significant excerpt. "Certain pa- 
triotic groups in the world today 
are ready and willing to make the 
necessary sacrifices to get it over 
with. There is a fundamental dif- 
ference between Earthmen and 
other creatures of the system, and 
this difference can be resolved only 
by the dominance of one over the 
other." 

Supremist stuff. Strictly. If this 
Undersecretary were not actually a 
member he was at least a supporter 
of the Supremist line. And that line 
had an appeal for the unthinking, 
Pell had to admit. It was pleasant 



to convince yourself that you were 
a superior specimen, that you were 
chosen. . . , 

VENUSIAN SPY SUSPECTS HELD 
ON MARS 

Pell frowned deeply at that one 
and read the story. A couple of 
Venusian miners on Mars had wan- 
dered too close to one of the Earth 
military outposts, and had been 
nabbed. He doubted that they were 
spies; he doubted that the authori- 
ties holding them thought so. But it 
seemed to make a better story with 
a slight scare angle. He thought 
about how Mars was divided at an 
arbitrary meridian — half to Venus, 
half to Earth. The division solved 
nothing, pleased nobody. Joe Citi- 
zen, the man in the tunnels could 
see these things, why couldn't these 
so-called trained diplomats? 

Pell finished his report, ques- 
tioned the Postmaster a little on 
routine facts concerning the town, 
and went back to the hotel. 



CIEL WAS WAITING for him. 
She was in a smart, frontless 
frock of silvercloth. Her golden hair 
shone. Her large, dark eyes looked 
deep, moist, alive. She looked at 
him questioningly ■ and he read the 
silent question: Now can you spare 
a little time? 

"Baby," he said softly, and kissed 
her. 

"Mm," he said when he had 
finished kissing her. 

The voice-phone rang. 

He said, "Damn it." 

It was Kronski, in his own room 



60 



WALT SHELDON 



next door. "Did Wilcox leave yet?" 
he asked. 

"Wilcox?" 

"Yeah. The Doc. Is he still 
there?" 

"I didn't know he was here at 
all." 

Kronski said, "Huh?" 

Pell said, "Maybe we better back 
up and start all over again." 

"Wilcox, the Resident Surgeon 
Doc Wilcox," said Kronski, not too 
patiently. "He was in my room a 
little while ago. Said he'd drop by 
on his way out and see if you were 
in." 

Pell glanced at Giel. She was busy 
lighting a cigarette at the other 
end of the room. Or pretending to 
be busy. Pell said, "I just got here. 
Just this minute. I didn't see any 
Wilcox. What'd he want?" 

"I don't know exactly. He was 
kind of vague about it. Wanted to 
know if he could answer any more 
questions for us, or anything like 
that." 

"Sounds screwy." 

"Yeah. It sure does, now that I 
think it over." 

"Let me call you back," said Pell 
and hung up. He turned to Ciel. 
"Was Doc Wilcox here?" 

"Why, yes. He stopped in." 
Nothing but blank innocence on 

"Why didn't you tell me?" 

"Hm?" She raised her eyebrows. 
"He just stopped in to see if you 
were here, that was all. I told him 
you weren't and he went out 
again." 

"But you didn't mention it." 

"Well, why should I?" 

"I don't know. I'd think you'd 
say something about it." 



"Now, listen, Dick — I'm not 
some suspect you're grilling. What's 
the matter with you, anyway?" 

"It just strikes me as funny that 
Wilcox should drop in here and 
you shouldn't say one word about 
it, that's all." 

"Well, I like that." She folded 
her arms. "You're getting to be so 
much of a cop you're starting to be 
suspicious of your own wife." 

"Now, you know it's not that at 
all." 

"What else is it? Dick, I'm sick 
of it. I'm sick of this whole stupid 
business you're in. The first time we 
get a few minutes alone together 
you start giving me the third de- 
gree. I won't stand for it, that's 
all!" 

"Now, baby," he said and took a 
step toward her. 

The deeper tone of the viewer 
sounded. 



" A GH, FOR PETE'S sake," he 

m\. said disgustedly and an- 
swered the call. The image of Chief 
Larkin's boyishly handsome face 
came into focus on the screen. Pell 
lifted a surprised eyebrow and said, 
"Oh, hello, Chief." 

Larkin's eye was cold. Especially 
cold in the setting of that boyish 
face. "What in hell," he asked, 
"are you and Kronski doing on the 
moon?" 

"Hm?" Now it was Pell's turn to 
look innocent. "Why, you know 
what we're doing. Chief. We're in- 
vestigating that case. You know the 
one — I don't want to mention it 
over the viewer." 

"Who the devil authorized you 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



61 



to go traipsing to the moon to do 
it?" 

"Why, nobody authorized us. I 
thought — I mean, when you're 
working on a case and you have a 
lead, you're supposed to go after it, 
aren't you?" 

"Yes, but not when it's a crazy 
wild goose chase." In the viewer 
Pell saw the Chief slam his desk 
with the palm of his hand. "I'd like 
to know what in blazes you think 
you can do on the moon that you 
can't do in a good healthy session 
at the computers?" 

"Well, that's kind of hard to ex- 
plain over the viewer. We have 
made some progress, though. I just 
sent you a report on it." 

Larkin narrowed one eye. "Pell, 
who do you think you're fooling?" 

"Fooling?" 

"You heard me. I know damn 
well you wanted to take a vacation 
on the moon. But we have a little 
job for you that holds you up, and 
what do you do? The next best 
thing, eh? You see to it that the job 
takes you to the moon." 

"Now, Chief, it wasn't that at 
all " 

"The devil it wasn't. Now, listen 
to me. Pell. You pack your bags 
and get right back to World City. 
The next rocket you can get. You 
understand?" 

Before he answered the question 
he looked at Ciel. She was staring 
at him quietly. Again he could read 
something of what was in her mind. 
He knew well enough that she was 
trying to say to him: "Make a 
clean break now. Tell him No, you 
won't come back. Quit. Now's the 
time to do it — unless you want that 
stupid job of yours more than you 



want me ..." 

Pell sighed deeply, slowly looked 
into the viewer again and said, 
"Kronski and I'll be back on the 
next rocket, Chief." 



Ch^ter rV 



>ACK AGAIN in the under- 
' ground offices of C.I.B., Agent 
Richard Pell plunged into his job. 
Up to his neck. It was the only way 
he could keep from brooding about 
Ciel. She was somewhere in the city 
at this very moment and if he 
really wanted to take the trouble 
he'd be able to find her easily 
enough — but he didn't want it to 
happen that way. She'd never 
really be his again unless she cajne 
to him .... 

And so once more he found him- 
self in the office late at night. 
Alone. Poring over the lab reports 
that had come in that afternoon, 
turning them over in his mind and 
hoping, he supposed, for a nice in- 
tuitive flash, free of charge. 

As a matter of fact the analysis 
of the vaccine he'd lifted from Wil- 
cox's dispensary was not without 
significance. There was definitely 
an extraneous substance. The only 
question was just, what this sub- 
stance might be. Take a little longer 
to find that out, the report said. 

It made Pell think of the corny 
sign World Government officials al- 
ways had on their desks, the one 
about doing the difficult right away 
and taking a little longer for the 
impossible. Some day, when he was 
a big-shot, he would have a sign on 
his desk saying: Why make things 



62 



WALT SHELDON 



difficult when with even less effort 
you can make them impossible? Of 
course, ideas like that were prob- 
ably the very reason he'd never be 
a big-shot .... 

The Identifier humming. Some- 
one coming again. 

He looked up, and then had the 
curious feeling of being jerked back 
in time to several nights ago. Chief 
Larkin and Theodor Rysland en- 
tered. 

"Hello, Dick," said Larkin, with 
a touch of studied democracy. He 
glanced at the government adviser 
as if to say: See? Knew we'd find 
him here. 

Pell made a sour face. "Some 
day I'm going to stop giving all this 
free overtime. Some day I'm not 
going to show up at all." 

Rysland smiled, dislodging some 
of the rock strata of his curiously 
pale face. He seemed a little weary 
this evening. He moved slowly and 
with even more than his usual dig- 
nity. He said, "I hope, Mr. Pell, 
that you'll wait at least until you 
finish this job for us. I understand 
you've made some progress." 

Pell shrugged and gestured at the 
lab report. "Progress, maybe — but 
I don't know how far. Just a bunch 
of new puzzles to be perfectly 
frank." 

Rysland sat down at the other 
desk and drummed on it with his 
fingertips. He looked at Pell grave- 
ly. "As a matter of fact, since we 
last talked to you the situation has 
become even more urgent. A Su- 
premist congressman introduced a 
bill today before the world dele- 
gates which may prove very dan- 
gerous. Perhaps you know the one 
I refer to." 



"I was too busy to follow the 
news today," said Pell, looking 
meaningfully at Larkin. 

Larkin didn't seem to notice. 

Rysland said, "I'll brief you then. 
The bill purports to prohibit ma- 
terial aid of any kind to a non- 
Terran government. That means 
both credit and goods. And since 
the only real non-Terran govern- 
ment we know is Venus, it's ob- 
viously directed specifically at the 
Venusians." 

Pell thought it over. High level 
stuff again. He nodded to show he 
followed. 

"On the surface," continued 
Rysland, "this would seem to be a 
sort of anti-espionage bill. Actually, 
it's a deliberately provocative act. I 
know the Venusians will take it 
that way. But right now certain 
quarters are secretly trying to ne- 
gotiate a trade treaty with Venus 
which would be a major step to- 
ward peaceful relations. If this bill 
became law, such a treaty would be 
impossible." 

"But World Congress isn't likely 
to pass such a bill, is it? Won't they 
see through it?" 

Rysland frowned. "That's what 
we're not sure of. Messages are 
pouring in urging passage — all of 
them from Supremists, of course. 
The Supremists are relatively few, 
but they make a lot of noise. Some- 
times noise like that is effective. It 
could swing a lot of delegates who 
don't see the real danger of this bill 
and are at the moment undecided. 
The Defender side, with its desire 
to isolate and fortify, is especially 
susceptible." 

"That is bad," said Pell thought- 
fully. 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



63 



(YSLAND PUT his palm on 
the desk. "Now then, if we can 
somehow discredit the Supremists 
— get to the bottom of this thing 
quickly enough — I'm sure that bill 
will be killed. I came here tonight, 
I suppose, out of pure anxiety. In 
other words, Mr. Pell, just how far 
are you?" 

Pell smiled and shook his head. 
"Not very, I'm afraid. This Su- 
premist thing is the damndest I 
ever came across. No central head- 
quarters, no officers, no propaganda 
mill — entirely word of mouth as 
far as I can see. No way of finding 
out how it started, or even how the 
new members are proselyted. Ask 
any member how he became a Su- 
premist. He just looks kind of 
dreamy and mutters something 
about the truth suddenly dawning 
upon him one day." 

"But don't you have any the- 
ories.'^ 

"I've got a hunch," Pell said, 
picking up the lab report. 

Chief Larkin snorted softly. The 
snort said clearly enough that an 
efficient investigator didn't depend 
on hunches these days: he went 
after something doggedly on the 
computer, or by other approved 
techniques. 

Pell pretended not to hear the 
snort. "First of all we discovered 
that nearly all Supremists received 
some kind of an inoculation before 
they became Supremists. Then we 
found a whole village, one of those 
moon resort towns, that had gone 
over. There was the record of inoc- 
ulation there, too. I got hold of 
some of the vaccine and had the 
lab analyze it. It's mostly vaccine 
all right, but there is a foreign sub- 



stance in it. Listen." He read from 
the report: "Isolated point oh six 
four seven grams unclassified crys- 
tal compound, apparently form of 
nucleotide enzyme. Further analysis 
necessary." 

"You think this enzyme, or what- 
ever it is, has something to do with 
it?" 

"I don't know. All I have is a 
pretty wild theory. To begin, when 
our lab can't analyze something 
right away, it's pretty rare — pos- 
sibly even unknown to chemistry in 
general. Now it's just possible that 
this substance does something to the 
brain that makes a man into a Su- 
premist, and that somebody's be- 
hind the whole thing, deliberately 
planting the stuff so that people 
here and there become injected 
with it." 

"Pell." Larkin made a pained 
face. "Really." 

Pell shrugged. "Well, as I say, it's 
a hunch, that's all." 

"It's a pipe dream," said Larkin. 
"I never heard of anything so fan- 
tastic." 

"That's what folks said a couple 
of centuries ago when the Venu- 
sians were first trying to make con- 
tact and their ships were sighted all 
over the place. T never heard of 
anything so fantastic,' they all said." 

Theodor Rysland still looked in- 
terested. "Granted there is some 
connection between the Supremist 
mental state and this, er, enzyme. 
What then, Mr. Pell?" 

"Well," said Pell, stretching his 
legs out, "I had an idea maybe 
your friend Dr. Nebel could give 
us some help on that." 

"Nebel?" 



WALT SHELDON 



"He's interested in this thing, 
isn't he?" 

"Definitely. Nebel's a very public 
spirited man." 

"Well, I understand he's one of 
the top psychobiologists in the 
country today. Seems to me this 
new enzyme, whatever it is, would 
be right up his alley. Of course the 
lab should get to it eventually, but 
he might do it a lot quicker." 

Larkin had been examining some 
statistical crime charts on the wall. 
He turned from them. "Pell, does 
Kronski know about all these wild 
hunches of yours?" 

"I haven't talked with him 
about them yet. He left today be- 
fore the lab report came in. Why?" 

"I was just wondering," said 
Larkin evenly, "whether I had two 
maniacs in my organization or only 
one. 

Rysland, frowning, turned to the 
chief. "I wouldn't be hasty, Lar- 
kin," he said. "Crazy as it sounds 
Pell may have something here." 

Larkin snorted again, and this 
time along with it he shook his 
head sadly. 

"What's your next move then?" 
Rysland asked Pell. 

"Tomorrow morning, first thing," 
Pell said, "I'll take a sample, of this 
stuff to Dr. Nebel and see what he 
can do with it. Of course the lab 
can keep on working on it in the 
meantime." 

"Don't you think you might do 
better to get busy on those com- 
puters?" Larkin asked. 

Pell shook his head. "This hunch 
is too strong, Chief." 

Rysland smiled, and got up. 
"I'm inclined to put a little stock 
into this man's hunches. He's done 



pretty well with them so far. I'd 
even say he's pretty close to a solu- 
tion of this thing — possibly." 

Larkin shrugged and started to 
look at the crime charts again. 

Rysland held out his hand. 
"Good night, Mr. Pell. You've en- 
couraged me. Larkin and I are go- 
ing topside for a little night cap be- 
fore we turn in. Like to join us?" 

"No, thanks," said Pell. "I'm 
sleepy. I want to get home and hit 
that sack." 

"Very well. Good night again." 
The two men went toward the 
door. 

Pell watched them quietly. He 
had lied. He wasn't sleepy at all. 
He just wanted to get home and sit 
by that viewer and hope, hope 
against hope, that it would ring 
and that Ciel's lovely image would 
swirl into view. . . . 



kN THE WAY home he was 
just the least bit tempted to 
go topside, however. He thought 
he might like to walk the broad, 
quiet boulevards under the stars. 
His brain functioned better there. 
The tunnels were so clean and 
bright and sterile, so wonderfully 
functional and sensible, that they 
oppressed him somehow. Maybe, he 
sometimes thought, he wasn't fit for 
this age. Maybe he should have 
been born a couple of hundred 
years ago. But common sense told 
him that people in that age must 
have often thought exactly the 
same thing to themselves. 

He looked at his chrono and de- 
cided he had better go home. 

The apartment, when he came 
to it, was cold and empty without 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



65 



Ciel. He bathed and tried to keep 
up his spirits by singing in his tune- 
less way, but it didn't help. 

He went back into the living 
room, selected a film from the li- 
brary and slipped it into a lap pro- 
jector. He sat down and tried to 
concentrate on the film, a historical 
adventure about the days of the 
first moon rockets. He couldn't fol- 
low it. 

The viewer rang. 

He bounded from the chair as 
though he had triggered a high 
speed ejection seat in a burning jet. 
He went to the viewer and flicked 
it on. The plate shimmered, and 
then Giel's image came into focus. 

"Baby!" He was certain his 
shout overmodulated every amp 
tube in the entire World City 
viewer system. But he felt better, 
wonderfully better, already. 

She was smiling. "Hello, Dick." 

"Hello." 

And then they looked at each 
other in affectionate embarrassment 
for a moment. 

"One of us," said Pell, "ought to 
have his script writer along." 

"Dick, I don't know exactly iiow 
to say what I want to say . . . ." 

"Don't. Don't say anything. Just 
pretend nothing ever happened. 
Just come on home fast as you 
can." 

"No, Dick. Not yet. I still want 
to talk about — well, everything. 
Dick, we've got to reach some sort 
of compromise. There must be a 
way." 

"Come on home. We'll find a 
way." 

"Not home. Too many memories 
there. Besides," she smiled a little, 
"I don't trust us alone together. You 



know what would happen. We 
wouldn't get any talking done. Not 
any sensible talking anyway. You'd 
better meet me someplace." 

He sighed. "Okay. Where can I 
meet you?" 

"How about the Stardust Cafe?" 

"Again? That place didn't help 
us much the last time." 

"I know, but it's the handiest. 
I'm sure we can find a quiet place. 
Out on the terrace or something." 

"Is there a terrace?" 

"Yes, I think so. I'm sure there 
must be." 

He looked at his chrono. "All 
right, baby. Half an hour?" 

"Half an hour." 

When she clicked off he felt his 
heart pounding. He felt dizzy. He 
felt as though lie had just taken a 
quart of meth at one jolt — intra- 
venously. He sang, more loudly and 
more off-key than ever. He went 
into the bedroom and started to get 
dressed again. 

It wasn't until he was finishing 
the knot in his tie that the hunch 
hit him. 



IT WAS FUNNY about that 
hunch. He would have said it 
came out of nowhere, and yet it 
must have broken from the bottom 
of his mind through some kind of 
restraining layer into the conscious 
levels. He didn't remember .think- 
ing anything that might have 
brought it on— his mind was strict- 
ly on Ciel. Maybe that was how it 
came through, with the attention 
of his conscious mind directed else- 
where. 

With the hunch he heard Ciel's 
voice again, heard it very clearly, 



m^ 



WALT SHELDON 



saying: 'Tm sure we can find a 
quiet place. Out on the terrace or 
something." And with that other 
things started to fall into place. 

As he thought, and as the possi- 
bilities of his hunch fanned out to 
embrace other possibilities he be- 
came suddenly cold and sick inside. 
He fought the feeling. "Got to go 
through with it," he muttered to 
himself. "Got to." 

As soon as he was dressed he 
took the tunnel cars to Station 
D-90, changing twice. People were 
aboard at this hour, returning from 
the evening. Lots of men and wom- 
en in uniform: the green of the 
landfighters, the white of the sea- 
men, the blue of the flyers, the sil- 
ver and black of the space force. 
Young people. Kids mostly: kids 
who had never seen war, smelled 
death, heard the wounded scream. 
He hoped they never would. But if 
his hunch was correct they might 
be dangerously near to it right now. 

If only he had time to call Kron- 
ski. He'd feel a lot safer . . . 

He shook himself. Have to stop 
thinking about it. Proceed cau- 
tiously now, and take each thing as 
it came. That was the only thing to 
do. 

He went topside and stepped 
from the elevator kiosk into the 
night air. Ahead he saw the bright 
globular sign of the Stardust Cafe. 
But he didn't go toward it right 
away. He turned in the other direc- 
tion, walked swiftly, and kept a 
sharp eye on the shadows. He 
turned off on a side street, circled a 
small park, and then crossed a slop- 
ing lawn toward the back of the 
night club. He headed for the light 
of the service entrance. 



A half-credit bill got him inside 
through the back entrance. He 
found the door with the temporary 
sign saying: Marco the Mentalist. 
He knocked. 

Marco the Mentalist opened the 
door. He didn't look quite as tall 
face-to-face as he did out on the 
floor, nor quite as impressive. His 
face was still dark and faintly satur- 
nine, but the jowls seemed a little 
puffier now, there was a faint net- 
work of capillaries around his nos- 
trils and his eyes looked just the 
least bit ' y and tired. In a 
pleasant l ^h voice he said, 
"Yes?" 

Pell showed his C.I.B. identifi- 
cation. 

Marco raised his eyebrows a lit- 
tle and said, "Come inside, please." 
Inside he found a chair for Pell. He 
sat across from him at his dressing 
table, half-turned toward the room. 
"I must get ready for my show in 
a little while. You understand that, 
of course." 

Pell nodded. "What's on my 
mind won't take long. First of all, 
I want to ask a few questions about 
hypnotism. They may seem silly to 
you, or maybe a little elementary, 
ijut I'd like you to answer 'em just 
the same." 

Marco's eyebrows went a little 
bit higher and he said, "Proceed." 

"Okay. Question number one: 
can anybody be hypnotized against 
his will?" 

"Some can, some can't." Marco 
smiled. "The average person, un- 
der average circumstances— no. I 
appear in my act to hypnotize peo- 
ple against their wills. Actually, 
subconsciously, they wish to be hyp- 
notized, which is why they volun- 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



67 



teer to let me try in the first place." 

"Okay, number two. Is there any 
drug that can hypnotize a per- 
son?" 

Marco frowned. "Pentothal and 
several things appear to do that. 
You could argue it either way, 
whether the subject is actually hyp- 
notized or not. I believe post-hyp- 
notic commands have been given to 
subjects under sodium pentathol 
and carried out, even back in the 
dark ages of psychiatry several 
hundred years ago." 

"I've got one more really impor- 
tant question," Pell said then. "I'd 
understood that somebody under 
hypnosis won't do anything against 
his moral or ethical sense. An hon- 
est man, for instance, can't be 
forced to steal. Is that true?" 

Marco laughed and gestured 
with his graceful fingers. "I don't 
think it is true. It was once be- 
lieved to be, because hypnotic tech- 
nique was not strong enough. That 
is, the subject's hypnosis was not 
strong enough to overcome a 
strong moral sense, which is actual- 
ly a surface veneer on a deeper, 
more brutal nature. But I think 
with deep enough hypnosis, and 
the right kind of command, you 
can get a person to do most any- 
thing in post-hypnotic behavior — 
and of course not know why he 
must do it, even knowing it's 
wrong. Do you follow me?" 

"I hope I do." Then Pell leaned 
forward. "And now I have a very 
great favor to ask of you." 

"Yes?" 

"I want you to put on a little 
special private performance for me, 
right here and now." 



"I'm afraid I don't understand." 
"You will, in about sixty seconds. 



Just listen carefully 



Chapter V 



'E WAS LATE for his date 
with Ciel, of course. He 
glanced at his chrono as he entered 
the Stardust Cafe by the front door 
and saw that he was twenty min- 
utes late. However, this time he 
was certain Ciel wouldn't complain 
too vigorously. 

Again the askarins were playing, 
and once more the green-skinned 
Venusian girls were doing their 
writhing, spasmodic, aphrodisiacal 
dance. It was remarkable how they 
could achieve such an effect of ut- 
ter abandon and yet keep their 
faces blank and frozen. He looked 
around the rest of the room swiftly. 
Not so crowded tonight, and 
people were generally quieter. 
There were no oversexed spacemen 
clawing after the dancers on the 
floor. 

Ciel was again in a rear booth, 
in the same corner of the room she 
had chosen before. She had spotted 
him now; she was looking his way. 
She lifted a white-gloved hand and 
waved. 

He smiled and ■ headed for her. 
He forced his smile, and made him- 
self forget the prickling of his wrists 
and the feeling of bristling fur along 
his spine. And he held his smile all 
the way across the room. Why, 
hello, darling, fancy seeing you 
here; no, nothing's wrong, nothing 
at all, why on earth would you 
think anything was wrong? 



WALT SHELDON 



"Hi, baby," was all he actually 
said. 

"I'm — I'm glad you're here, 
Dick." Her eyes didn't show much. 
They roved over his face a little too 
much perhaps, but otherwise they 
seemed simply as large and dark as 
ever. He noticed that the meth 
glass in front of her was empty. 

Grinning, he sat down. "This is a 
big moment. This is almost too 
much for me to handle. Maybe 
that's what I need — a good slug of 
meth." 

"No." 

"No?" 

"Let's not waste time. Let's go 
out on the terrace. I want you to 
kiss me." 

"Best offer I've had all evening." 
He rose again. "Where's the ter- 
race?" 

"Through that door. There's a 
dining room there that's closed at 
night. You go through the dining 
room and out to the terrace." 

"Okay." 

He took her arm and led her in 
and out of tables, across the room. 
They moved swiftly through the 
quiet, nearly dark dining room, and 
after that through a pair of win- 
dow-doors. They were on the ter- 
race then, a flagstoned space with 
a low wall. It overlooked the scat- 
tered lights of World City's topside 
area and some distance beyond 
they could see the river, a blue-sil- 
ver ribbon in the moonlight. 

They stopped at the wall. She 
turned toward him. He looked 
down at her, at her pale face and 
deep, dark eyes. He smelled her 
perfume and he felt her live 
warmth near him and coming 
nearer. He saw her eyes close, her 



lips part just slightly, and each lip 
glistening, faintly moist .... 

He was wondering when it 
would happen. He was wondering 
when he would be struck. 

As he wondered that he sudden- 
ly discovered he wasn't on the ter- 
race any more. 



HE LOOKED ABOUT him in 
some surprise. It was nearly 
dark. He was in a room; he could 
sense the walls about him. He 
heard a curious, high-pitched me- 
tallic voice — and recognized it. 

"Pell? Are you awake now?" 

It had happened then, just as he 
had expected. Someone had thrown 
a freezer on him there in the patio, 
and during his complete uncon- 
sciousness he'd been taken here, 
wherever this was. He sighed. The 
least they could have done would 
have been to let him finish kissing 
Ciel. 

As calmly as he could he said to 
the four blank walls, "I'm awake." 

Soft glowlights came on gradual- 
ly and he saw that the room about 
him was fairly small — twenty by 
fifteen, roughly — and very plain. It 
contained a bed and a few odd 
pieces of furniture, all apparently 
of good quality. There was a door 
in one wall. He tried the door. 
Locked. He went back to the mid- 
dle of the room. 

"Chief," he said to the blank 
walls, "what's this all about? Is it 
some kind of a joke?" 

The metallic voice chuckled. It 
belonged to Eustace J. Larkin, 
Chief, Central Investigation Bu- 
reau, and even filtered like this it 
was somewhat prim and precise. 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



69 



"No, Dick, it's not a joke, I'm 
afraid. I'm surprised you haven't 
guessed what it's all about. Or at 
least had one of your brilliant 
hunches." There was sarcasm in this 
last. 

"Where's Ciel?" Pell asked. 

"Right here with me. In the next 
room. Here — listen." 

Ciel's voice said, "Don't worry, 
darling, we'll explain everything. 
And when it's all over it will be for 
the best. You'll see that it will." 

"All right, everybody," said Pell, 
half-belligerently, "what's the big 
idea?" 

"Big idea is right," Larkin's voice 
came back. "The biggest that ever 
hit the human race. And as Ciel 
says we'll explain it all in a mo- 
ment. But first I'd like your word 
that you won't be foolish and make 
any kind of a struggle. If you'll 
promise that you can come in the 
other room here and we can all 
talk face to face." 

Pell frowned. "I don't know — 
I'm not so sure I can honestly 
promise that." 

"Suit yourself, then. A few min- 
utes from now it won't make any 
difference anyway." 

"Will you stop being so damned 
mysterious and tell me what it's all 
about?'' 

Larkin's voice laughed. "Very 
well. I haven't had much chance to 
tell about it, frankly. And I think 
you'll agree we've rather neatly 
kept our parts under cover — until 
you got dangerously close to the an- 
swer, anyway." 

"Until I got close?" 

"Certainly. Doc Wilcox's office 
on the moon was perhaps our one 
weakness in the whole set-up. How 



you managed to stumble on to that, 
I'll never know — your luck must 
have been with you." 

"It wasn't luck, Larkin, it was a 
hunch." 

"Still believe in hunches, eh? 
Well, we won't argue the point. At 
any rate you wouldn't have found 
the enzyme any place else but 
there." 

"Oh, so the enzyme does have 
something to do with it." 

"Everything. Here — suppose I let 
Doctor Nebel explain it to you. He 
developed it, after all." 

Pell lifted his eyebrows in sur- 
prise and Dr. Walter Nebel's sibi- 
lant voice came through the hid- 
den speakers. "I think you should 
know how it works, Mr. Pell. You 
may know that a certain part of 
the brain called Rossi's area is, to 
put it figuratively, the hypnotic 
center. The cut-off of the adrenal 
cortex, so to speak. In ordinary 
hypnosis the function of that area 
is dulled by overexercising the mo- 
tor senses. By that method the in- 
tensity of hypnosis is widely variable 
and never really one hundred per 
cent effective. My compound, how- 
ever, brings about complete and ab- 
solute cut-off. Any post-hypnotic 
suggestion given under those cir- 
cumstances takes permanently and 
deeply. It can only be removed by 
further post-hypnosis under the 
same treatment, negating the orig- 
inal command." 

Pell stared at the blank walls. 
!'Go on," he said in a soft, tense 
voice. "What's the rest?" 

Larkin spoke again. "Suppose we 
briefly examine a little history as a 
kind of introduction to this matter. 
The human race, since the begin- 



70 



WALT SHELDON 



ning of recorded time, has failed to 
achieve real peace and stability, 
right? Every time there has been 
a chance for cooperative effort — 
for total agreement — certain selfish 
interests have spoiled it. There have 
been times, however, when certain 
groups' — states or combinations of 
states — Qame close to permanent 
peace and prosperity- The Napole- 
onic era was one. Hitler two hun- 
dred years ago almost brought it 
about. The only reason they failed 
was that they didn't achieve their 
goal — complete conquest." 

Did Pell hear correctly? Was 
there a faint simmering of madness 
in that metallic voice now? In the 
words there was madness, sure- 
ly... 



IT WENT ON: "The fact is, 
Pell, people simply don't know 
what's good for them. Look at the 
blunderers and even downright 
crooks who are elected to World 
Government. Never the best brains, 
never the best talents. When a 
really able man gets into a position 
of leadership it's an accident — a. 
fluke." 

"I still don't see what all this has 
got to do with it," said Pell. 

There was a shrug in the metal- 
lic voice. "For once the ablest men 
are going to take over. There are a 
number of us. You know already 
about myself and Doctor Nebel. 
Rysland will be with us, too, as 
soon as we can get him condi- 
tioned." 

"By conditioned, you mean this 
enzyme of yours?" 

"Exactly. We started out in a 
small way, using force or trickery 



where necessary, and managed to 
condition a number of doctors and 
nurses. Conditioning simply means 
injecting Nebel's compound and 
then giving the post-hypnotic com- 
mand to be unquestioningly loyal to 
the Supremists. We created the Su- 
premists, of course. In order for us 
to take over it will be necessary to 
have another war, and to conquer 
Venus. That can be done if Earth 
strikes quickly. Within the next few 
days I think there'll be enough Su- 
premi§t influence to get this war 
started." 

Pell stared back, open-mouthed. 
To hear it coldly and calmly like 
this was shock, cold-water shock. 
"Let me get this straight now. 
Your group made Supremists of 
doctors and nurses and they in turn 
made new members by installing 
this hypnosis stuff whenever any- 
body came for a hypodermic injec- 
tion of any kind, is that it?" 

"That's it." 

"But how does this stuff work? 
Does it knock you out, or what?" 

"You'll be finding that out at 
first hand very shortly." 

Pell stiffened, made fists and un- 
consciously lifted them -and looked 
around him, warily. 

Larkin laughed. "It won't do 
you much good to put up a fight. 
I'm sending a couple of my assist- 
ants in there. They specialize in 
people who want to make a strug- 
gle. And there's no reason to feel 
unhappy about it. Pell : once you're 
conditioned you'll simply be unable 
to do anything against the Suprem- 
ist cause. You'll be happier, in fact, 
having such a cause. Ask your wife 
if that isn't so." 

Pell trembled with anger. "How 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



71 



did you get to her? How did you 
make her do what she did?" 

"You mean luring you into our 
little trap on the terrace, so to 
speak? You mustn't blame Ciel for 
that. She couldn't help herself; she 
had to obey, after all. You see she 
was conditioned in Augea on the 
moon by Dr. Wilcox, one of our 
very loyal men. He simply dropped 
in when you were at the Post 
Office, pretended that Ciel needed 
a routine injection and she, not at 
all suspicious, allowed him to do 
it. He gave her the command of 
loyalty, and also cautioned her not 
to say anything about it. So you 
see, Ciel's been one of us for sev- 
eral days. It was just a little pre- 
caution of mine, in case you should 
become troublesome. I had to as- 
sign somebody to the investigation, 
of course, because Rysland and his 
crowd would have been too suspi- 
cious if I hadn't complied with 
their request." 

"You're stark crzzy, Larkin! You 
ought to be in a mental hospital!" 

"You'll be over that idea in a 
minute or so. Meanwhile, we're 
wasting time. I'm sending the boys 
in now. You'll make it easier for 
yourself if you submit without giv- 
ing them any trouble." 

The door opened, then. Pell 
caught a quick glimpse of the other 
room and saw that it was a taste- 
fully furnished living room. He 
recognized it, and knew where he 
was. This was a country house of 
Larkin's, topside, not far from the 
outskirts of World City. Whoever 
turned the freezer on him must 
have set the control at high inten- 
sity because it would take at least 
an hour to get to this place from 



the Stardust Cafe and he had been 
unconscious at least that long. 

He had the momentary impulse 
to rush that partly opened door — 
and then the boys, as Larkin had 
called them, appeared. 



THEY WERE SPECIALISTS, 
little doubt of that. They re- 
garded Pell with flat, almost disin- 
terested looks as the door closed be- 
hind them. One held a hypodermic 
needle. He was the shorter of the 
two, but he had shoulders like ox- 
yokes. His face had been kneaded 
in the prize ring, and his bare arms 
were muscular and hairy but the 
top of his head was bald. The other 
had red hair, close-cropped. He 
was'big and well-proportioned; Pell 
might have taken him for a profes- 
sional football player. 

Red did the talking. He spoke 
quietly, almost pleasantly. "Gonna 
cooperate?" he asked Pell. 

Pell said, "You touch me, broth- 
er, and I'll make your face look 
like Baldy's." 

Red glanced at Baldy and seemed 
to sigh. Abruptly he whirled, 
jumped at Pell and brought a siz- 
zling right hand punch through the 
air. Pell ducked it. He saw Baldy 
move in as he did so, and a painful 
blow struck the back of his neck. 
His -teeth rattled when it struck. 
Something caught him under the 
chin, straightened him. When he 
was straight a pile driver struck 
him in the midsection. 

It was all over within a matter 
of seconds. Under different circum- 
stances Pell might have found time 
to admire their technique. 

As it was, he was now face down 



72 



WALT SHELDON 



on the floor and Red was strad- 
dling him, holding him there. The 
pain in his stomach made him 
gasp. His face and the back of his 
neck ached terribly. 

Red had his arm in the small of 
his back. Pell tried to struggle. 

"I can break the arm if you 
move," said Red cheerfully. 

And then Pell felt the bite of the 
needle just below his shoulder. 

A misty feeling came. He felt as 
though he were in a red whirlpool, 
spinning, going down — down. . . He 
fought to rise. He could still hear. 
He could hear footsteps and the 
slam of the door when somebody 
else came into the room. And then 
he seemed abruptly to be detached 
from his own body and floating in 
a huge gray void. . . . 

Words hammered at his brain. 
Larkin's voice, at his ear now and 
no longer metallic. "You will be 
loyal to the Supremist cause. You 
will do nothing against the Su- 
premist doctrine. You will believe 
that Earthmen are meant to rule 
the Universe — " 

He felt an overpowering impulse 
to nod, to agree, fo believe that it 
was right to do this. He fought this 
impulse, straining his mind and his 
very being until it seemed that 
something might burst with the ef- 
fort. 

"You will work for the cause; 
you will give your life for it if 
necessary." 

Yes, perhaps it was better so suc- 
cumb. The words were too strong. 
He couldn't fight them. Larkin was 
right, Earthmen were supreme, and 
they were destined to rule. . . . 

Somewhere in the depths a tiny 
spot of resistance still glowed. He 



tried desperately to evoke it. It 
seemed then that it became bright- 
er. He could resist — he would. . . . 
He kept thinking over and over 
again: "No, no, no!" 

Larkin's voice said, "Carry him 
in the other room. He'll come to in 
a moment." 



HE CAME TO slowly, and he 
saw that he was lying on a 
couch and that several people were 
gathered around him smiling down 
at him. Something detached itself 
from the group, knelt by his side. 
He blinked. It was Ciel. Her gold- 
en hair shone and her dark eyes 
searched his face and she was smil- 
ing. "Hello, darling," she said. 

"Hello, Ciel." He kissed her, and 
then sat up on the couch and 
looked around. 

Larkin and Dr. Nebel were 
standing together, and Red and 
Baldy were a few steps behind 
them, still looking indifferent. 

"Now you're one of us, Dick," 
said Larkin, flashing his professional 
smile, dimples and everything. Pell 
rose. Nebel held his hands behind 
his back and beamed, blinking his 
heavy reptilian eyelids and Larkin 
stepped forward and held out his 
hand. 

"Yes," said Pell, shaking the 
hand, "I guess we're all working 
for the same thing now. What do 
you want me to do?" 

Larkin laughed. "Nothing right 
away. We'll give you instructions 
when the time comes. I think you 
might as well go home with Ciel 
now; I have a copter and a chauf- 
feur outside that'll take you to the 
station near your apartment." 



BRINK OF MADNESS 



73 



"Okay, Chief, whatever you say." 
He smiled and took Ciel's arm. He 
started toward the door. Then he 
stopped, patted his chest and said, 
"Oh — my freezer. I guess the boys 
took it away. . . ." 

Larkin turned to Baldy. "Give 
him his weapon." 

Baldy took the freezer from his 
pocket and casually tossed it to Pell. 

A sudden change came over Pell, 
then. His smile disappeared. He 
stepped quickly away from Ciel, 
whirled and faced all of them. He 
pointed the freezer. "All right, 
everybody stay perfectly still — -you, 
too, Ciel. This is where we break up 
your little Supremist nightmare." 

Larkin stared in utter amaze- 
ment. Nebel's turtle lids opened 
wide. Ciel brought her hand to her 
throat. 

Red's hand blurred suddenly, go- 
ing for his own weapon. Pell 
squeezed the trigger, the violet 
sparks danced for an instant, and 
then Red stood frozen with his hand 
almost to his chest. 

"I'd advise nobody else to try 
that," said Pell, and then in an 
ironical tone to Larkin: "C.I.B. 
agents are trained to be pretty quick 
with a freezer, right, Chief?" 

Larkin seemed to find his voice 
now "But — how — what hap- 
pened? You were injected. How 
can you. . ." 

"I just took a little precaution, 
that's all," said Pell. "There'll be 
plenty of time to explain it all later. 
You'll probably hear the whole 
thing in court, Larkin, when I tes- 
tify at your trial for treason. Mean- 
while, all of you just stay nice and 
calm while I use the viewer." 

He stepped to the viewer and 



dialed with his free hand. The plate 
glowed, shimmered and a moment 
later the pale, grave face of Theo- 
dor Rysland came into view. His 
eyebrows rose as he saw the weapon 
in Pell's hand and glimpsed the 
people beyond Pell. "Hello — what's 
this all about?" 

"Haven't time to explain fully 
now," said Pell, "but I want you to 
get to Larkin' s country house as 
soon as you can. I'll call agent 
Kronski in a moment and have him 
bring some others, and together 
we'll take Larkin and Nebel into 
custody. They're behind the Su- 
premist movement — a deliberate at- 
tempt to take over the government. 
They did it with a drug; that's how 
Supremist's are made." 
"What's this? A drug?" 
"Think about it later," said Pell. 
"Just grab the facts right now. The 
drug makes a person subject to 
post-hypnotic commands — that's 
why your Supremists are blindly, 
unthinkingly loyal. However, the 
command can be erased by a second 
treatment. That'll be tough and 
take a lot of ferreting out, but it 
won't be impossible." He glanced 
at Ciel, and saw that she was star- 
ing at him with horror — with en- 
mity. It sickened him, but he 
steadied himself with the realization 
that Ciel would be one of the first 
to be re-treated. 



SEVERAL MINUTES later he 
had completed his calls. Rys- 
land, Kronski and the others were 
on the way. He kept the freezer 
pointed, and watched his captives 
carefully. Ciel had gone over to the 
couch and was sitting there, her 



74 



WALT SHELDON 



face in her hands, weeping softly. 

"I don't know how you did it," 
said Larkin. "I don't understand 
it. The injection should have 
worked. It always did before." 

"Well, it almost worked," said 
Pell. "I must admit I had quite a 
time fighting off your commands. 
But, you see, I knew you'd gotten 
to Ciel somehow when she called 
me up to make the date this eve- 
ning. She spoke of going out to the 
terrace at the Stardust Cafe. It was 
a little odd that she should speak of 
the terrace like that, out of a clear 
sky — and I wondered why it should 
be on her mind. Then it struck me 
that neither of us had ever noticed 
a terrace there, and Ciel must have 
some special reason for knowing 
about it. 

"She did, of course — she'd been 
instructed to get me out there where 
your boys could slap a freezer on 
me. So I started guessing with that 
hunch to work on. Everything more 
or less fell into place after that. It 
was pretty certain that they'd try to 
make a loyal Supremist out of me, 
too, and that's when I took that 
little precaution I mentioned to 
you." 

"What precaution?" 

Pell smiled. "I had Marco the 
mentalist hypnotize me and give me 



a rather special post-hypnotic com- 
mand. He ordered me not to be- 
lieve any subsequent post-hynotic 
commands. That's why your condi- 
tioning didn't work on me." 

Larkin could find no words; he 
just stared. 

"Think about it, Larkin," said 
Pell. "Think hard. Maybe you'd 
convinced yourself you were doing 
good, but your purpose was still 
tyranny. And like any tyranny it 
contained the means of its own de- 
struction. It always works out that 
way, Larkin — maybe it's a law, or 
something." 

It had been a long speech for 
Pell, practically an oration. He was, 
after all, a cop, not a philosopher. 
Just a guy trying to get along. Just 
an ordinary citizen whose name was 
legion, looking at his \yife now and 
waiting with what patience he 
could find for the time when she 
would be cleared of the poisonous 
doctrine that any one race or group 
or even species was supreme. 

He was thinking, too, that the 
trial would keep him busy as the 
very devil and that they still 
wouldn't get to that vacation and 
second' honeymoon for a long 
time. . . . 

That, considering everything, was 
not too much to put up with. 



- THE END - 



WE WANT YOUR LETTERS! It's true "The Postman Cometh" is 
small, and we'll continue this policy of devoting most of our space to the 
best available stories. But if you'll take time (and a postcard) to tell us 
which stories you like best, we'll tabulate and run the results in a special 
section — and of course our futiu-e selections will be based on your wishes. 
Fair enough? 




She was sweet, gentle, kind — 
a sort of Martian Old Mother 
Hubbard. But when she went 
to her cupboard. . . 



ONE 

MARTIAN 

AFTERNOON 

By Tom Leahy 

Illustrated by BRUSH 



THE CLOD burst in a cloud of 
red sand and the little Martian 
sand dog ducked quickly into his 
burrow. Marilou threw another at 
the aperture in the ground and 
then ran over and with the inside 
of her foot she scraped sand into it 
until it was filled to the surface. 
She started to leave, but stopped. 

The little fellow might choke to 
death, she thought, it wasn't his 
fault she had to live on Mars. Satis- 
fied that the future of something 
was dependent on her whim, she 
dug the sand from the hole. His 
little yellow eyes peered out at her. 

"Go on an' live," she said mag- 
na;nimously. 

She got up and brushed the sand 
from her knees and dress, and 



75 



76 



TOM LEAHY 



walked slowly down the red road. 

The noon sun was relentless; no- 
where was there relief from it. 
Marilou squinted and shaded her 
eyes with her hand. She looked in 
the sky for one of those infrequent 
Martian rain clouds, but the deep 
blue was only occasionally spotted 
by fragile white puffs. Like the sun, 
they had no regard for her, either. 
They were too concerned with 
moving toward the distant moun- 
tains, there to cling momentarily to 
the peaks and then continue on 
their endless route. 

Marilou dabbed the moisture 
from her forehead with the hem of 
her dress. "I know one thing," she 
mumbled. "When I grow up, I'll 
get to Earth an' never come back 
to Mars, no matter what!" 

She broke into a defiant, ca- 
denced step. 

"An' I won't care whether you 
an' Mommy like it or not!" she de- 
clared aloud, sticking out her chin 
at an imaginary father before her. 

Before she realized it, a tiny, 
lime-washed stone house appeared 
not a hundred yards ahead of her. 
That was the odd thing about the 
Martian midday; something small 
and miles away would suddenly be- 
come large and very near as you ap- 
proached it. 

The heat waves did it, her father 
had told her. "Really?" she had 
replied, and — you think you know 
so doggone much, she had thought. 



n AUNT TWYLEE!" She broke 
A\ into a run. By the Joshua 
trees, through the stone gateway 
she ran, and with a leap she lit like 
a young frog on the porch. "Hi, 



Aunt Twylee!" she said breathless- 

An ancient Martian woman sat 
in a rocking chair in the shade of 
the porch. She held a bowl of pur- 
ple river apples in her lap. Her pa- 
pyrus-like hands moved quickly as 
she shaved the skin from one. In a 
matter of seconds it was peeled. 
She looked up over her bifocals at 
the panting Marilou. 

"Gracious child, you shouldn't 
run like that this time of day," she 
said. "You Earth children aren't 
used to our Martian heat. It'll 
make you sick if you run too 
much." 

"I don't care! I hate Mars! 
Sometimes I wish I could just get 
good an' sick, so's I'd get to go 
home!" 

"Marilou, you are a little ty- 
rant!" Aunt Twylee laughed. 

"Watcha' doin'. Aunt Twylee?" 
Marilou asked, getting up from her 
frog posture and coming near the 
old Martian lady's chair. 

"Oh, peeling apples, dear. I'm 
going to make a cobbler this after- 
noon." She dropped the last ap- 
ple, peeled, into the bowl. "There, 
done. Would you like a little cool 
apple juice, Marilou?" 

"Sure — you betcha! Hey, could 
I watch you make the cobbler. 
Aunt Twylee, could I? Mommy 
can't make it for anything — it tastes 
like glue. Maybe, if I could see how 
you do it, maybe I could show her. 
Do you think?" 

"Now, Marilou, your mother 
must be a wonderful cook to have 
raised such a healthy little girl. I'm 
sure there's nothing she could learn 
from me," Aunt Twylee said as she 
arose. "Let's go inside and have 



ONE MARTIAN AFTERNOON 



77 



that apple juice." 

The kitchen was dark and cool, 
and filled with the odors of the 
wonderful edibles the old Martian 
had created on and in the Earth- 
made stove. She opened the Earth- 
made refrigerator that stood in the 
corner and withdrew an Earth- 
made bottle filled with Martian ap- 
ple juice. 

Marilou jumped up on the table 
and sat cross-legged. 

"Here, dear." Aunt Twylee 
handed her a glass of the icy liquid. 

"Ummm, thanks," Marilou said, 
and gulped down half the contents. 
"That tastes dreamy, Aunt Twy- 
lee." 

The little girl watched the old 
Martian as she lit the oven and 
gathered the necessary ingredients 
for the cobbler. As she bent over to 
get a bowl from the shelf beneath 
Marilou's perch, her hair brushed 
against the child's knee. Her hair 
was soft, soft and white as a pup- 
py's, soft and white like the down 
from a dandelion. She smiled at 
Marilou. She always smiled; her 
pencil-thin mouth was a perpetual 
arc. 

Marilou drained the glass. 
"Aunt Twylee— is it true what my 
daddy says about the Martians?" 

"True? How can I say, dear? I 
don't know what he said." 

"Well, I mean, that when us 
Earth people came, you Martians 
did inf . . . infan . . ." 

"Infanticide?" Aunt Twylee in- 
terrupted, rolling the dough on the 
board a little flatter, a little faster. 

"Yes, that's it— killed babies," 
Marilou said, and took an apple 
from the bowl. "My daddy says you 
were real primitive, an' killed your 



babies for some silly religious rea- 
son. I think that's awful! How 
could it be religious? God couldn't 
like to have little babies killed!" 
She took a big bite of the apple; 
the juice ran from the corners of 
her mouth. 

"Your daddy is a ver>' intelligent 
man, Marilou, but he's partially 
wrong. It is true — but not for re- 
ligious reasons. It was a necessity. 
You must remember, dear. Mars is 
very arid — sterile — unable to sus- 
tain many living things. It was aw- 
ful, but it was the only way we 
knew to control the population." 



MARILOU LOOKED down 
her button nose as she picked 
a brown spot from the apple. 
"Hmmph, I'll tell 'im he's wrong," 
she said. "He thinks he knows so 
damn much!" 

"Marilou!" Aunt Twylee ex- 
claimed as she looked over her 
glasses. "A sweet child like you 
shouldn't use such language!" 

Marilou giggled and popped the 
remaining portion of the apple in 
her mouth. 

"Do your parents know where 
you are, child?" Aunt Twylee 
asked, as she took the bowl from 
Marilou's hands. She began dicing 
the apples into a dough-lined cas- 
sarole. 

"No, they don't," Marilou re- 
plied. She sprayed the air with lit- 
tle particles of apple as she talked. 
"Everybody's gone to the hills to 
look for the boys." 

"The boys?" Aunt Twylee 
stopped her work and looked at the 
little girl. 

"Yes — ^Jimmy an' Eddie an' some 



78 



TOM LEAHY 



of the others disappeared from the 
settlement this morning. The 
men're afraid they've run off to th' 
hills an' the renegades got 'em." 

"Gracious," Aunt Twylee said; 
her brow knitted into a criss-cross 
of wrinkles. 

"Oh, I know those dopes. 
They're prob'ly down at th' canals 
— fishin' or somep'n." 

"Just the same, your mother will 
be frantic, dear. You should have 
told her where you were going." 

"I don't care," Marilou said 
with unadulterated honesty. "She'll 
be all right when I get home." 

Aunt Twylee shook her head 
and clucked her tongue. 

"Can I have another glass? 
Please?" 

The old lady poured the glass 
full again. And then she sprinkled 
sugar down among the apple cubes 
in the cassarole and covered them 
with a blanket of dough. She cut 
an uneven circle of half moons in 
it and put it in the oven. "There — 
all ready to bake, Marilou," she 
sighed. 

"It looks real yummy, Aunt Twy- 
lee." 

"Well, I certainly hope it turns 
out good, dear," she said, wiping 
her forehead with her apron. She 
looked out the open back door. 
The landscape was beginning to 
gray as heavier clouds moved down 
from the mountains and pressed the 
afternoon heat closer, more oppres- 
sively to the ground. "My, it's get- 
ting hot. I wouldn't be a bit sur- 
prised if we didn't get a little rain 
this afternoon, Marilou." She 
turned back to the little girl. "Tell 
me some more about your daddy, 
dear. We Martians certainly owe a 



lot to men like your father." 

"That's what he says too. He 
says, you Martians would have died 
out in a few years, if we hadn't 
come here. We're so much more 
civi . . . civili . . ." 

"Civilized?" 

"Yeah. He says, we were so much 
more 'civ-ilized' than you that we 
saved your lives when we came 
here with all our modern stuff." 

"Well, that's true enough, dear. 
Just look at that wonderful Earth 
stove," Aunt Twylee said, and 
laughed. "We wouldn't be able to 
bake an apple cobbler like that 
without it, would we?" 



A RUMBLE of thunder shoul- 
dered through the crowded 
hot air. 

"No. He says, you Martians are 
kinda likeable, but you can't be 
trusted. He's nuts! I like you Mar- 
tians!" 

"Thank you, child, but every- 
one's entitled to his own opinion. 
Don't judge your daddy too severe- 
ly," Aunt Twylee said as she 
scraped spilled sugar from the 
table and put little bits of it on her 
tongue. 

"He says that you'd bite th' hand 
that feeds you. He says, we brought 
all these keen things to Mars, an' 
that if you got th' chance, you'd 
kill all of us!" 

"Gracious," said Aunt Twylee as 
she speared scraps of dough with 
the point of her long paring knife. 

"He's a dope!" Marilou said. 

Aunt Twylee opened the oven 
and peeked in at the cobbler. The 
aroma of the simmering apples 
rushed out and filled the room. 



ONE MARTIAN AFTERNOON 



79 



"Could I have some cobbler 
when it's done?" Marilou asked, 
her mouth filling with saliva. 

"I'm afraid not, child. It's get- 
ting rather late." 

The thunder rumbled again — a 
little closer, a little louder. 

The old lady washed the blade 
of the knife in the sink. "Tell me 
more of what your father says, 
dear," she said as she adjusted the 
bifocals on her thin nose and ran 
her thumb along the length of the 
knife's blade. 

"Oh, nothin' much more. He just 
says that you'd kill us if you had th' 
chance. That's the way the inferior 
races always act, he says. They want 
to kill th' people that help 'em, 
'cause they resent 'em." 

"Very interesting." 

"Well, it isn't so, is it. Aunt Twy- 
lee?" 

The room was filled with blind- 
ing blue-white light, and the walls 
quaked at the sound of a monstrous 
thunderclap. 

The old Martian glanced nerv- 
ously at the clock on the wall. "My, 
it is getting late," she said as she 
fondled the knife in her hands. 

"You Martians wouldn't do any- 
thing like that, would you?" 

"You want the truth, don't you, 
dear?" Aunt Twylee asked, smiling, 
as she walked to the table where 
Marilou sat. 



"'Course I do. Aunt Twylee," 
she said. 

Her scream was answered and 
smothered by the horrendous roar 
of the thunder, and the piercing 
hiss of the rain that fell in sheets. 
In great volumes of water, it fell, as 
though the heavens were attempt- 
ing to wash the sins of man from 
the universe and into non-existence 
in the void beyond the void. 



MARILOU LAY beside the 
other children. Aunt Twylee 
smiled at them, closed the bedroom 
door and returned to the kitchen. 

The storm had moved on; the 
thunder was the faint grumbling of 
a pacified old man. What water fell 
was a monotonous trickle from the 
eaves of the lime-washed stone 
house. Aunt Twylee washed the 
blood from the knife and wiped it 
dry on her apron. She opened the 
oven and took out the browned 
cobbler. Sweet apple juice bubbled 
to the surface through the half 
moons and burst in delights of sug- 
ary aroma. The sun broke through 
the thinning edge of the thunder- 
head. 

Aunt Twylee brushed a lock of 
her feathery white hair from her 
moist cheek. "Gracious," she said, 
"I must tidy up a bit before the 
others come." 



■ THE E'ND ■ 




Donald W. Kerst 

DONALD W. KERST is proba- 
bly unknown except in the up- 
per strata of scientific research, 
but he's the man who is almost 
solely responsible for the betatron. 

The lanky six-footer was born in 
Galena, Kansas, in 1911. The 
Kerst family moved to Wawatosa, 
Wisconsin, when Donald was less 
than two years old, and it was in 
this small town that Don grew up 
and went to high school. He had a 
school chum who was an ardent 
amateur radio operator, and it was 
while helping this friend build con- 
stantly better ham apparatus that 
Donald Kerst's interest in science 
grew into an abiding passion. He 
entered the University of Wiscon- 
sin where he got both his B. A. and 
his Ph.D. After a year at the Gen- 



Personalities 
in Science 

His Specialty: Turning 
New Corners 



eral Electric Laboratories working 
with X-ray tubes, he accepted the 
post of Professor of Physics at the 
University of Iowa. 

Kerst had started research into 
the nature of the atom while stud- 
ying for his doctorate, and now he 
picked up where he had left off. In 
1941 he was able to announce that 
he had achieved a new instrument 
of research capable of accelerating 
electrons to a velocity approximat- 
ing the speed of light, or 186,000 
miles per second! He described this 
new tool as a "rheotron, the heart 
of which is a doughnut-shaped 
glass vacuum tube placed between 
the poles of a large electromagnet." 

The United States Government 
snapped up the new instrument 
for use in arsenals and on the Man- 
hattan Project during the war. It 
was a dependable, foolproof, eco- 
nomical tool with the ability to 
penetrate twenty inches of steel 
with its radiation in twenty min- 
utes, and to detect flaws of two- 
thousandths of an inch. The units 
used in arsenals are able to detect 
flaws in bombs and shells so they 
can be corrected, eliminating any 
danger of the projectiles exploding 
prematurely. 



m 



PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 



81 



The commercial betatron was 
five feet by ten feet and housed 
behind a three-foot reinforced con- 
crete wall in a specially designed 
building. In this particular ma- 
chine the electrons from a hot fila- 
ment were speeded in their accel- 
eration by electrical impulses until 
they reached 20,000,000 volts- 
then released from the tube as beta 
rays or directed at a metal target 
which converted them into X-rays. 



ALTHOUGH the government 
-Li-was using the betatron during 
the war and finding it most satis- 
factory, Kerst went right on im- 
proving the machine and its per- 
formance. Ever since the first beta- 
tron worked, the desire of the sci- 
entists and physicists was to pro- 
duce particles with cosmic ray en- 
ergies. Within four years after the 
commercial betatron, Kerst was 
able to produce one that achieved a 
22,000,000-volt free-electron beam 
with which it was possible to pene- 
trate to the core of the atom and to 
study the nucleus in a way that had 
never before been possible. 

After fifteen months of actual 
construction work the super-beta- 
tron was ready for a trial run. 
When asked by reporters to predict 
the performance of the machine 
and the possibility that mesons 
could be produced, Kerst answered, 
"To ask what we expect is like ask- 
ing what's around a corner that 
we've never gone around before." 
Two days after the unveiling the 
super-betatron fulfilled all hopes 
and produced what has been de- 
scribed as "torrents of mesons." 

In order to understand just what 



the invention of the betatron 
means, we need to know exactly 
what a meson is. What we know 
about it is rather slim, as a matter 
of fact, and what we hope to learn 
with the help of the super-betatron 
is of vital importance. The meson 
is the fourth basic particle of sub- 
atomic matter (the other three are 
the proton, the neutron and the 
electron). It is believed to be the 
binding force that holds all nu- 
clei together. Heretofore mesons 
have been studied by means of 
high-altitude balloons with special 
photographic apparatus to record 
their passage once they've been 
split from the nuclei in the earth's 
atmosphere by incoming cosmic 
rays. The force necessary to split 
the mesons from the nuclei has up 
until now been unattainable any- 
where but at this high altitude. 

The program of improving the 
betatron and making it an even 
more useful tool than the present 
model goes right on, with Dr. Don- 
ald Kerst working at it full time. 
The blue-eyed, brown-haired man 
of science has little time for leisure ; 
he feels that there is too much left 
undone in this particular field. 
His wife Dorothy and his young 
son and daughter know that the 
one way to get Dad's nose off the 
grindstone is to suggest a family 
canoeing or skiing excursion. These 
are his favorite recreations. 

"As long as the water holds out 
■and the snow stays, we know we 
can have him around with us," 
says Mrs. Kerst, "but you can't 
stop him from mulling things over 
even then. He's what you might 
call 'wrapped up in his work'." 

— epw 



Does your wife call you Pumpkinhead? Well, 
maybe it's not an insult; it might be a pet name. 
Ah — but whose pet name? 



WEAK OH SQUARE ROOTS 

By Russell Burton 

Illustrated by TOM BEECHAM 



AS HIS COACH sped through 
dusk-darkened Jersey meadows, 
Ronald Lovegear, fourteen years 
with Allied Electronix, embraced 
his burden with both arms, silently 
cursing the engineer who was de- 
liberately rocking the train. In his 
thin chest he nursed the conviction 
that someday there would be an in- 
telligent robot at the throttle of the 
5 : 10 to Philadelphia. 

He carefully moved one hand 
and took a notebook from his pock- 
et. That would be a good thing to 
mention at the office next Monday. 

Again he congratulated himself 
for having induced his superiors to 
let him take home the company's 
most highly developed mechanism 
to date. He had already forgiven 
himself for the little white lie that 
morning. 

"Pascal," he had told them, "is 
a little weak on square roots." That 
had done it! 

Old Hardwick would never per- 
mit an Allied computer to hit the 



82 



market that was not the absolute 
master of square roots. If Love- 
gear wanted to work on Pascal on 
his own time it was fine with the 
boss. 

Ronald Lovegear consulted his 
watch. He wondered if his wife 
would be on time. He had told 
Corinne twice over the phone to 
bring the station wagon to met him. 
But she had been so forgetful lately. 
It was probably the new house; six 
rooms to keep up without a maid 
was quite a chore. His pale eyes 
blinked. He had a few ideas along 
that line too. He smiled and gave 
the crate a gentle pat. 



CORINNE WAS at the station, 
and she had brought the station 
wagon. Lovegear managed to get 
the crate to the stairs of the coach 
where he consented to the assist- 
ance of a porter. 

"It's not really heavy," he told 
Corinne as he and the porter wad- 



84 



RUSSELL BURTON 



died through the crowd. "Actually 
only 57 pounds, four ounces. Alumi- 
num casing, you know; . ." 

"No, I didn't. . ." began Corinne. 

"But it's delicate," he continued. 
"If I should drop this. . ." He shud- 
dered. 

After the crate had been placed 
lengthwise in the rear of the station 
wagon, Corinne watched Ronald 
tuck a blanket around it. 

"It's not very cold, Ronald." 

"I don't want it to get bounced 
around," he said. "Now, please, 
Corinne, do drive carefully." Not 
until she had driven half a block 
did he kiss her on the cheek. Then 
he glanced anxiously over his shoul- 
der at the rear seat. Once he 
thought Corinne hit a rut that could 
have been avoided. 

Long after Corinne had retired 
that night she heard Ronald pound- 
ing with a brass hammer down in 
his den. At first she had insisted he 
take the crate out to his workshop. 
He looked at her with scientific 
aloofness and asked if she had the 
slightest conception of what "this 
is worth?" She hadn't, and she went 
to bed. It was only another one of 
his gestures which was responsible 
for these weird dreams. That night 
she dreamed Ronald brought home 
a giant octopus which insisted on 
doing the dishes for her. In the 
morning she woke up feeling un- 
wanted. 

Downstairs Ronald had already 
put on the coffee. He was wearing 
his robe and the pinched greyness 
of his face told Corinne he had 
been up half the night. He poured 
coffee for her, smiling wanly. "If 
I have any commitments today, 
Corinne, will you please see that 



they are taken care of?" 

"But you were supposed to get 
the wallpaper for the guest 
room. . . ." 

"I know, I know, dear. But time 
is so short. They might want Pascal 
back any day. For the next week or 
two I shall want to devote most of 
my time. . ." 

"Pascal?" 

"Yes. The machine — the com- 
puter." He smiled at her ignorance. 
"We usually name the expensive 
jobs. You see, a computer of this 
nature is really the heart and soul 
of the mechanical man we will con- 
struct." 

Corinne didn't see, but in a few 
minutes she strolled toward the den, 
balancing her coffee in both hands. 
With one elbow she eased the door 
open. There it was: an innocent 
polished cabinet reaching up to her 
shoulders. Ronald had removed one 
of the plates from its side and she 
peeped into the section where the 
heart and soul might be located. 
She saw only an unanatomical 
array of vacuum tubes and elec- 
trical relays. 

She felt Ronald at her back. "It 
looks like the inside of a juke box," 
she said. 

He beamed. "The same relay 
systems used in the simple juke box 
are incorporated in a computer." 
He placed one hand lovingly on 
the top of the cabinet. 

"But, Ronald — it doesn't even re- 
semble a — a mechanical man?" 

"That's because it doesn't have 
any appendages as yet. You know, 
arms and legs. That's a relatively 
simple adjustment." He winked at 
Corinne with a great air of com- 
plicity. "And I have some excellent 



WEAK ON SQUARE ROOTS 



85 



ideas along that line. Now, run 
along, because I'll be busy most of 
the day." 



CORINNE RAN along. She 
spent most of the day shopping 
for week-end necessities. On an ir- 
rational last-minute impulse — per- 
haps an unconscious surrender to 
the machine age — she dug in the 
grocery deep freeze and brought 
out a couple of purple steaks. 

That evening she had to call 
Ronald three times for dinner, and 
when he came out of the den she 
noticed that he closed the door the 
way one does upon a small child. 
He chattered about inconsequential 
matters all through dinner. Corinne 
knew that his work was going 
smoothly. A few minutes later she 
was to know how smoothly. 

It started when she began to put 
on her apron to do the dishes. "Let 
that go for now, dear," Ronald said, 
taking the apron from her. He 
went into the den, returning with 
a small black box covered with 
push buttons. "Now observe care- 
fully," he said, his voice pitched 
high. 

He pushed one of the buttons, 
waited a second with his ear cocked 
toward the den, then pushed 
another. 

Corinne heard the turning of 
metal against metal, and she slowly 
turned her head. 

"Oh!" She suppressed a shriek, 
clutching Ronald's arm so tightly 
he almost dropped the control box. 

Pascal was walking under his own 
effort, considerably taller now with 
the round, aluminum legs Ronald 
had given him. Two metal arms 



also hung at the sides of the cab- 
inet. One of these raised stiffly, as 
though for balance. Corinne's 
mouth opened as she watched the 
creature jerk awkwardly across the 
living room. 

"Oh, Ronald! The fishbowl!" 

Ronald stabbed knowingly at 
several buttons. 

Pascal pivoted toward them, but 
not before his right arm swung 
out and, almost contemptuously, 
brushed the fishbowl to the floor. 

Corinne closed her eyes at the 
crash. Then she scooped up several 
little golden bodies and rushed for 
the kitchen. When she returned 
Ronald was picking up pieces of 
glass and dabbing at the pool of 
water with one of her bathroom 
towels. Pascal, magnificently aloof, 
was standing in the center of the 
mess. 

"I'm sorry." Ronald looked up. 
"It was my fault. I got confused 
on the buttons." 

But Corinne's glances toward the 
rigid Pascal held no indictment. She 
was only mystified. There was some- 
thing wrong here. 

"But Ronald, he's so ugly with- 
out a head. I thought that all 
robots—" 

"Oh, no," he explained, "we 
would put heads on them for dis- 
play purposes only. Admittedly that 
captures the imagination of the 
public. That little adapter shaft at 
the top could be the neck, of 
course. . . ." 

He waved Corinne aside and con- 
tinued his experiments with the 
home-made robot. Pascal moved in 
controlled spasms around the living 
room. Once, he walked just a little 
too close to the floor-length win- 



RUSSELL BURTON 



dow — and Corinne stood up nerv- 
ously. But Ronald apparently had 
mastered the little black box. 

With complete confidence Co- 
rinne went into the kitchen to do 
the dishes. Not until she was elbow 
deep in suds did she recall her 
dreams about the octopus. She 
looked over her shoulder, and the 
curious, unwanted feeling came 
again. 



THE FOLLOWING afternoon- 
after Ronald had cancelled 
their Sunday drive into the country 
— Pascal, with constant exhorta- 
tions by Ronald at the black box, 
succeeded in vacuum cleaning the 
entire living room. Ronald was ec- 
static. 

"Now do you understand?" he 
asked Corinne. "A mechanical serv- 
ant! Think of it! Of course mass 
production may be years away, 
but. . ." 

"Everyone will have Thursday 
nights off," said Corinne — but Ron- 
ald was already jabbing at buttons 
as Pascal dragged the vacuum 
cleaner back to its niche in the 
closet. 

Later, Corinne persuaded Ron- 
ald to take her to a movie, but not 
until the last moment was she cer- 
tain that Pascal wasn't going to 
drag along. 

Every afternoon of the following 
week Ronald Lovegear called from 
the laboratory in New York to ask 
how Pascal was getting along. 

"Just fine," Corinne told him on 
Thursday afternoon, "But he cer- 
tainly ruined some of the tomato 
plants in the garden. He just doesn't 
seem to hoe in a straight line. Are 



you certain it's the green button I 
push?" 

"It's probably one of the pressure 
regulators," interrupted Ronald. 
"I'll check it when I get home." 
Corinne suspected by his lowered 
voice that Mr. Hardwick had 
walked into the lab. 

That night Pascal successfully 
washed and dried the dishes, crack- 
ing only one cup in the process. 
Corinne spent the rest of the eve- 
ning sitting in the far corner of the 
living room, thumbing the pages of 
a magazine. 

On the following afternoon — 
prompted perhaps by that perverse 
female trait which demands com- 
pletion of all projects once started 
— Corinne lingered for several min- 
utes in the vegetable department at 
the grocery. She finally picked out 
a fresh, round and blushing pump- 
kin. 

Later in her kitchen, humming a 
little tune under her breath, Co- 
rinne deftly maneuvered a paring 
knife to transform the pumpkin in- 
to a very reasonable facsimile of a 
man's head. She placed the pump- 
kin over the tiny shaft between Pas- 
cal's box-shaped shoulders and 
stepped back. 

She smiled at the moon-faced 
idiot grinning back at her. He was 
complete, and not bad-looking! But 
just before she touched the red but- 
ton once and the blue button twice 
— which sent Pascal stumbling out, 
to the backyard to finish weeding 
the circle of pansies before dinner 
— she wondered about the gash that 
was his mouth. She distinctly re- 
membered carving it so that the 
ends curved upward into a frozen 
and quite harmless smile. But one 



WEAK ON SQUARE ROOTS 



87 



end of the toothless grin seemed to 
sag a little, like the cynical smile of 
one who knows his powers have 
been underestimated. 

Corinne would not have had to 
worry about her husband's reaction 
to the new vegetable-topped Pascal. 
Ronald accepted the transforma- 
tion good-naturedly, thinking that 
a little levity, once in a while, was 
a good thing. 

"And after all," said Corinne 
later that evening, "I'm the one 
who has to spend all day in the 
house with. . ." She lowered her 
voice : "With Pascal." 

But Ronald wasn't listening. He 
retired to his den to finish the plans 
for the mass production of com- 
petent mechanical men. One for 
every home in America. . . He fell 
asleep with the thought. 



CORINNE AND PASCAL spent 
the next two weeks going 
through pretty much the same rou- 
tine. He, methodically jolting 
through the household chores; she, 
walking aimlessly from room to 
room, smoking too many cigarettes. 
She began to think of Pascal as a 
boarder. Strange — at first he had 
been responsible for that unwanted 
feeling. But now his helpfulness 
around the house had lightened 
her burden. And he was so cheer- 
ful all the time! After living with 
Ronald's preoccupied frown for 
seven years. . . 

After luncheon one day, when 
Pascal neglected to shut off the gar- 
den hose, she caught herself scold- 
ing him as if he were human. Was 
that a shadow from the curtain 



waving in the breeze, or did she 
see a hurt look flit across the mouth 
of the pumpkin? Corinne put out 
her hand and patted Pascal's cylin- 
drical wrist. 

It was warm — flesh warm. 

She hurried upstairs and stood 
breathing heavily with her back to 
the door. A little later she thought 
she heard someone — someone with 
a heavy step — moving around 
downstairs. 

"I left the control box down 
there," she thought. "Of course, it's 
absurd. . . ." 

At four o'clock she went slowly 
down the stairs to start Ronald's 
dinner. Pascal was standing by the 
refrigerator, exactly where she had 
left him. Not until she had started 
to peel the potatoes did she notice 
the little bouquet of pansies in the 
center of the table. 

Corinne felt she needed a strong 
cup of tea. She put the water on 
and placed a cup on the kitchen 
table. Not until she was going to 
sit down did she decide that per- 
haps Pascal should be in the other 
room. 

She pressed the red button, the 
one which should turn him around, 
and the blue button, which should 
make him walk into the living 
room. She heard the little buzz of 
mechanical hfe as Pascal began to 
move. But he did not go into the 
other room ! He was holding a chair 
for her, and she sat down rather 
heavily. A sudden rush of pleasure 
reddened her cheeks. A^oi since so- 
rority days. . . 

Before Pascal's arms moved away 
she touched his wrist again, softly, 
only this time her hand lingered. 
And his wrist was warm! 



88 



RUSSELL BURTON 



^^\A/HEN DO THEY want 
YV Pascal back at the lab?" 
she asked Ronald at dinner that 
evening, trying td keep her voice 
casual. 

Ronald smiled. "I think I might 
have him indefinitely, dear. I've 
got Hardwick convinced I'm work- 
ing on something revolutionary." 
He stopped. "Oh, Corinne! You've 
spilled coffee all over yourself." 

The following night Ronald was 
late in getting home from work. It 
was raining outside the Newark 
station and the cabs deliberately 
evaded him. He finally caught a 
bus, which deposited him one block 
from his house. He cut through the 
back alley, hurrying through the 
rain. Just before he started up the 
stairs he glanced through the 
lighted kitchen window. He 
stopped, gripping the railing for 
support. 

In the living room were Pascal 
and Corinne. Pascal was reclining 
leisurely in the fireside chair; Co- 
rinne was standing in front of him. 
It was the expression on her face 
which stopped Ronald Lovegear. 
The look was a compound of re- 
straint and compulsion, the reflec- 
tion of some deep struggle in Co- 
rinne's soul. Then she suddenly 
leaned forward and pressed her lips 
to Pascal's full, fleshy pumpkin 
mouth. Slowly, one of Pascal's alu- 
minum arms moved up and encir- 
cled her waist. 

Mr. Lovegear stepped back into 
the rain. He stood there for several 
minutes. The rain curled around 
the brim of his hat, dropped to 
his face, and rolled down his cheeks 



with the slow agitation of tears. 

When, finally, he walked around 
to the front and stamped heavily 
up the stairs, Corinne greeted him 
with a flush in her cheeks. Ronald 
told her that he didn't feel "quite 
up to dinner. Just coffee, please." 
When it was ready he sipped slowly, 
watching Corinne's figure as she 
moved around the room. She 
avoided looking at the aluminum 
figure in the chair. 

Ronald put his coffee down, 
walked over to Pascal, and, grip- 
ping him behind the shoulders, 
dragged him into the den. 

Corinne stood looking at the 
closed door and listened to the furi- 
ous pounding. 



TEN MINUTES LATER Ronald 
came out and went straight to 
the phone. 

"Yes! Immediately!" he told the 
man at the freight office. While he 
sat there waiting Corinne walked 
upstairs. 

Ronald did not offer to help the 
freight men drag the box outside. 
When they had gone he went into 
the den and came back with the 
pumpkin. He opened the back door 
and hurled it out into the rain. It 
cleared the back fence and rolled 
down the alley stopping in a small 
puddle in the cinders. 

After a while the water level 
reached the mouth and there was a 
soft choking sound. The boy who 
found it the. next morning looked at 
the mouth and wondered why any- 
one would carve such, a sad Jack- 
O'-Lantem. 



■ THE END - 




SCIENCE 



BRIEFS 



One Mystery — Still Unsolved 

COSMIC RAYS— which .con- 
sist of protons, positrons, mes- 
ons and heavy nuclei — are particles 
that are speeded up in space to 
velocities that almost equal the 
speed of light. These tiny pieces 
hit the Earth constantly at tre- 
mendous energies that are millions 
of times greater than scientists can 
obtain with even the most modern 
types of equipment. 

Despite the consistent and con- 
centrated study being made by 
scientists, cosmic rays remain a 
mystery. How they accelerate to 
their tremendous speeds — their na- 
ture and where they come from 
and their purpose — these are still 
unknown. 

The cosmic rays that shoot in 
from space are called primary ra- 
diation, and these hardly ever pene- 
trate Earth's atmosphere to sea 
level. They usually hit atoms of 
gases that make up the air, invari- 
ably smashing the atom and send- 
ing its particles — which are called 
secondary cosmic rays — off in many 
different directions. 

Actually, in order to make a 
complete study of the primary cos- 
mic rays under perfect conditions, 



89 



we should have a laboratory at least 
23 miles above Earth. That's about 
where the original particles can be 
found. But since that isn't possible 
— at this time anyway — Navy sci- 
entists send up balloons containing 
various sensitive equipment. Then, 
the primary rays shoot into the 
equipment leaving tracks on the 
photographic plates for later cor- 
relation by the scientists. Other 
equipment radios data to the men 
on the ground when a cosmic ray 
is detected. 

Rockets which can be sent that 
distance into the atmosphere don't 
serve the purpose because they 
can't stay up very long, and this 
type of project requires high alti- 
tudes for hours. Balloons, for this 
reason, have been found to bring 
much more successful results. 

With continued research and 
study, the mystery of the cosmic 
ray will undoubtedly unfold and 
science will be able to build the 
solution into another advance for 
the good of humanity. 

We Should Have Stayed 
Prehistoric 

A STUDY MADE of domestic 
rats and wild rats of the same 
family indicates a definite pattern 
of physiological and behavior dif- 
ferences between the two types. 
Which would lead to the idea that 
these same typps of differences pos- 
sibly exist between early prehistoric 
man and civilized man as we know 
him today. 

Man was probably made much 
more susceptible to various diseases 
by the very process of becoming 



90 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



civilized. Illnesses like certain forms 
of colitis, asthma, rheumatoid ar- 
thritis, some forms of cancer, some 
types of mental illnesses — all these 
may be the products that developed 
as the civilization grew. 

Quite possibly, as man developed 
from the state of a hard-fighting 
primitive to that of a domestic se- 
cure individual, certain changes 
happened to his adrenal glands and 
his sex glands which could have 
been great enough to make him an 
easier victim to certain types of ail- 
ments. 

Maybe he should have stayed a 
healthy prehistoric . . . 

Youth for the Old 

TWO BRITISH scientists have 
recently performed some ex- 
periments the results of which are 
worthy of noting. They removed 
some skin from the ear of a rabbit 
and impregnated it with glycerine. 
Then they froze it and kept it 
stored for four months, after 
which time they transplanted the 
skin and found it would grow 
normally. 

According to the two scientists — 
Dr. R. Billingham and Prof. I. Bed- 
awar — it is not too far-fetched to 
assume that these pieces of skin 
would have remained in storage, in 
perfect condition, for a period 
much longer than the normal ex- 
pected life span of their donor. 

If this is so, then the aches and 
pains of old age will soon be over — 
the possibility of perpetuating 
youth is probable. A man might 
store, for example, some pieces of 
his own arteries and veins. In his 
old age, when he is suffering from 



hardening of the arteries, all he'd 
have to do would be to replace 
some of his hardened arteries with 
those belonging to his youth. 

And, for the vain, no more 
wrinkled skin! Just store some tis- 
sues when you're 20, pick them up 
and let them grow again with you 
when you're 50. 

It's an interesting possibility. 

The freeze method, incidentally, 
is an acknowledged advantage over 
the fresh bank method since it has 
been found that freeze grafts heal 
faster and there is less danger of 
hemorrhaging. The frozen graft 
retains its potency. 

Man Makes Himself Deaf 

THERE IS no sound in nature 
that will do any damage to the 
ear drums of a human. But man 
has set out to master nature. And 
in his efforts to do so, he exposes 
the human ear to degrees of sound 
for which it was never intended, 
and against which it has no pro- 
tection. 

In industry, the excessive noises 
of the machinery with which the 
worker is associated eight hours of 
the day create an injury to the 
hearing organ. The explosions of 
grenades and gunfire, the violent 
sounds made by airplane motors 
and jet engines and all the other 
instruments of warfare, all contrib- 
ute their share. Even day-to-day 
city life as we know it contains an 
unnatural amount of loud and 
violent noise. 

In his effort to become master, 
man is slowly destroying bits of 
himself. — Peter Dakin 



The line between noble dreams and madness is 
thin, and loneliness can push men past it ... . 



tlie lonely ones 

By Edward W. Ludwig 

Illustrated by PAUL ORBAN 



ONWARD SPED the Wanderer, 
onward through cold, silent in- 
finity, on and on, an insignificant 
pencil of silver lost in the terrible, 
brooding blackness. 

But even more awful than the 
blackness was the loneliness of the 
six men who inhabited the silver 
rocket. They moved in loneliness as 
fish move in water. Their lives re- 
volved in loneliness as planets re- 
volve in space and time. They bore 
their loneliness like a shroud, and 
it was as much a part of them as 
sight in their eyes. Loneliness was 
both their brother and their god. 

Yet, like a tiny flame in the dark- 
ness, there was hope, a savage, des- 
perate hope that grew with the 
passing of each day, each month, 
and each year. 

And at last . . , 

"Lord," breathed Captain Sam 
Wiley. 

Lieutenant Gunderson nodded. 
"It's a big one, isn't it?" 



"It's a big one," repeated Cap- 
tain Wiley. 

They stared at the image in the 
Wanderer's forward visi-screen, at 
the great, shining gray ball. They 
stared hard, for it was like an en- 
chanted, God-given fruit handed 
them on a star-flecked platter of 
midnight. It was like the answer to 
ar thousand prayers, a shining sym- 
bol of hope which could mean the 
end of loneliness. 

"It's ten times as big as Earth," 
mused Lieutenant Gunderson. "Do 
you think this'll be it. Captain?" 

"I'm afraid to think." / 

A thoughtful silence. 

"Captain." 

"Yes?" 

"Do you hear my heart pound- 
ing?" 

Captain Wiley smiled. "No. No, 
of course not." 

"It seems like everybody should 
be hearing it. But we shouldn't get 
excited, should we? We mustn't 



91 



THE LONELY ONES 



93 



hope too hard." He bit his lip. 
"But there should be life there, 
don't you think, Captain?" 

"There may be." 

"Nine years, Capta;in. Think of 
it. It's taken us nine years to get 
here. There's got to be life." 

"Prepare for deceleration, Lieu- 
tenant." 

Lieutenant Gunderson's tall, 
slim body sagged for an instant. 
Then his eyes brightened. 

"Yes, sir!" 

Captain sam wiley contin- 

\) ued to stare at the beautiful gray 
globe in the visi-screen. He was not 
like Gunderson, with boyish eager- 
ness and anxiety flowing out of him 
in a ceaseless babble. His emotion 
was as great, or greater, but it was 
imprisoned within him, like swirl- 
ing, foaming liquid inside a corked 

jug. 

It wouldn't do to encourage the 
men too much. Because, if they 
were disappointed . . . 

He shook his silver-thatched 
head. There it was, he thought. A 
new world. A world that, perhaps, 
held life. 

Life. It was a word uttered only 
with reverence, for throughout the 
Solar System, with the exception 
of on Earth, there had been only 
death. 

First it was the Moon, airless and 
lifeless. That had been expected, of 
course. 

But Mars. For centuries men had 
dreamed of Mars and written of 
Mars with its canals and dead 
cities, with its ancient men and 
strange animals. Everyone knew 
there was or had been life on Mars. 



The flaming rockets reached 
Mars, and the canals became vol- 
canic crevices, and the dead cities 
became jagged peaks of red stone, 
and the endless sands were smooth, 
smooth, smooth, untouched by feet 
of living creatures. There was 
plant-life, a species of green-red 
lichen in the Polar regions. But no- 
where was there real life. 

Then Venus, with its dust and 
wind. No life there. Not even the 
stars to make one think of home. 
Only the dust and wind, a dark veil 
of death screaming eternally over 
hot dry land. 

And Jupiter, with its seas of ice; 
and hot Mercury, a cracked, with- 
ered mummy of a planet, baked as 
hard and dry as an ancient walnut 
in a furnace. 

Next, the airless, rocky asteroids, 
and frozen Saturn with its swirling 
ammonia snows. And last, the 
white, silent worlds, Uranus, Nep- 
tune, and Pluto. 

World after world, all dead, 
with no sign of life, no reminder of 
life, and no promise of life. 

Thus the loneliness had grown. It 
was not a child of Earth. It was 
not born in the hearts of those who 
scurried along city pavements or of 
those in the green fields or of those 
in the cool, clean houses. 

It was a child of the incredible 
distances, of the infinite night, of 
emptiness and silence. It was born 
in the hearts of the slit-eyed men, 
the oldish young men, the space- 
men. 

For without life on other worlds, 
where was the sky's challenge? Why 
go on and on to discover only 
worlds of death? 

The dream of the spacemen 



94 



EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



turned from the planets to the stars. 
Somewhere in the galaxy or in 
other galaxies there had to be life. 
Life was a wonderful and precious 
thing. It wasn't right that it should 
be confined to a single, tiny planet. 
If it were, then life would seem 
meaningless. Mankind would be a 
freak, a cosmic accident. 

And now the Wanderer was on 
the first interstellar flight, hurtling 
through the dark spaces to Proxima 
Centauri. Moving silently, as if mo- 
tionless, yet at a speed of 160,000 
miles a second. And ahead loomed 
the great, gray planet, the only 
planet of the sun, growing larger, 
larger, each instant. . . . 

A GENTLE, murmuring hum 
filled the ship. The indicator 
lights on the control panel glowed 
like a swarm of pink eyes. 

"Deceleration compensator ad- 
justed for 12 G's, sir," reported 
Lieutenant Gunderson. 

Captain Wiley nodded, still 
studying the image of the planet. 

"There — there's something else. 
Captain." 

"Yes?" 

"It's Brown, sir. He's drunk." 

Captain Wiley turned, a scowl 
on his hard, lined face. "Drunk? 
Where'd he get the stuff?" 

"He saved it, sir, saved it for 
nine years. Said he was going to 
drink it when we discovered Ufe." 

"We haven't discovered life yet." 

"I know. He said he wouldn't set 
foot on the planet if he was sober. 
Said if there isn't life there, he 
couldn't take it — unless he was 
drunk." 



Captain Wiley grunted. "All 
right." 

They looked at the world. 

"Wouldn't it be wonderful. Cap- 
tain? Just think — to meet another 
race. It wouldn't matter what they 
were like, would it? If they were 
primitive, we could teach them 
things. If they were ahead of us, 
they could teach us. You know 
what I'd like? To have someone 
meet us, to gather around us. It 
wouldn't matter if they were afraid 
of us or even if they tried to kill us. 
We'd know that we aren't alone." 

"I know what you mean," said 
Captain Wiley. Some of his emo- 
tion overflowed the prison of his 
body. "There's no thrill in landing 
on dead worlds. If no one's there to 
see you, you don't feel like a hero." 

"That's it. Captain! That's why 
I came on this crazy trip. I guess 
that's why we all came. I . . ." 

Captain Wiley cleared his throat. 
"Lieutenant, commence deceler- 
ation. 6 G's." 

"Yes, sir!" 

The planet grew bigger, filling 
the entire visi-screen. 

Someone coughed behind Cap- 
tain Wiley. 

"Sir, the men would like to look 
at the screen. They can't see the 
planet out of the ports yet." The 
speaker was Doyle, the ship's En- 
gineer, a dry, tight-skinned Httle 
man. 

"Sure." Captain Wiley stepped 
aside. 

Doyle looked, then Parker and 
Fong. Just three of them, for Wat- 
kins had sliced his wrists the fourth 
year out. And Brown was drunk. 

As they looked, a realization 
came to Captain Wiley. The men 



THE LONELY ONES 



95 



were getting old. The years had 
passed so gradually that he'd never 
really noticed it before. Lieutenant 
Gunderson had been a kid just out 
of Space Academy. Parker and 
Doyle and Fong, too, had been in 
their twenties. They had been boys. 
And now something was gone — 
the sharp eyes and sure movements 
of youth, the smooth skin and thick, 
spft hair. 

Now they had become men. And 
yet for a few moments, as they 
gazed at the screen, they seemed 
like happy, expectant children. 

"I wish Brown could see this," 
Doyle murmured. "He says now he 
isn't going to get off his couch till 
we land and discover life. Says he 
won't dare look for himself." 

"The planet's right for life," said 
Fong, the dark-faced astro-physi- 
cist. "Atmosphere forty per cent 
oxygen, lots of water vapor. No 
poisonous gases, according to spec- 
troscopic analyses. It should be 
ideal for life." 

"There is life there," said Parker, 
the radarman. "You know why? 
Because we've given up eighteen 
years of our lives. Nine years to get 
here, nine to get back. I'm thirty 
now. I was twenty-one when we left 
Earth. I gave up all those good 
years. They say that you can have 
something if you pay enough for it. 
Well, we've paid for this. There has 
to be dt — a sort of universal justice. 
That's why I know there's life here, 
life that moves and thinks — maybe 
even life we can talk to." 

"You need a drink," said Fong. 

"It's getting bigger," murmured 
Lieutenant Gunderson. 

"The Centaurians," mused 
Doyle, half to himself. "What'll 



they be like? Monsters or men? If 
Parker's right about universal jus- 
tice, they'll be men." 

"Hey, where there's men, there's 
women!" yelled Parker. "A Cen- 
taurian woman! Say!" 

"Look at those clouds!" ex- 
claimed Doyle. "Damn it, we can'i 
see the surface." 

"Hey, there! Look there, to the 
right! See it? It's silver, down in a 
hole in the clouds. It's like a city!" 

"Maybe it's just water." 

"No, it's a city!" 

"Bring 'er down. Captain. God, 
Captain, bring 'er down fast!" 

"Drag Brown in here! He ought 
to see this!" 

"Can't you bring 'er down faster. 
Captain?" 

"Damn it, it is a city!" 

"Why doesn't someone get 
Brown?" 

"Take to your couches, men," 
said Captain Wiley. "Landing's apt 
to be a bit bumpy. Better strap 
yourselves in." 

DOWN WENT the rocket, more 
slowly now, great plumes of 
scarlet thundering from its forward 
braking jets. Down, down into soft, 
cotton-like clouds, the whiteness 
sliding silently past the ports. 

Suddenly, a droning voice : 

"To those in the ship from the 
planet called Earth: Please refrain 
from landing at this moment. You 
will await landing instructions." 

Parker leaped off his couch, 
grasping a stanchion for support. 
"That voice! It was human!" 

Captain Wiley's trembling hand 
moved over the jet-control panel. 
The ship slowed in its descent. The 



96 



EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



clouds outside the portholes be- 
came motionless, a milky whiteness 
pressed against the ship. 

"The voice!" Parker cried again. 
"Am I crazy? Did everyone hear 
it?" 

Captain Wiley turned away from 
the panel. "We heard it, Parker. It 
was in our minds. Telepathy." 

He smiled. "Yes, the planet is in- 
habited. There are intelligent be- 
ings on it. Perhaps they're more in- 
telligent than we are." 

It was strange. The men had 
hoped, dreamed, prayed for this 
moment. Now they sat stunned, un- 
able to comprehend, their tongues 
frozen. 

"We'll see them very soon," said 
Captain Wiley, his voice quivering. 
"We'll wait for their directions." 

Breathlessly, they waited. 

Captain Wiley's fingers drummed 
nervously on the base of the con- 
trol panel. Lieutenant Gunderson 
rose from his couch, stood in the 
center of the cabin, then returned 
to his couch. 

Silence, save for the constant, 
rumbling roar of the jets which 
held the ship aloft. 

"I wonder how long it'll be," 
murmured Fong at last. 

"It seems like a long time!" burst 
Parker. 

"We've waited nine years," said 
Captain Wiley. "We can wait a 
few more minutes." 

They waited. 

"Good Lord!" said Parker. 
"How long is it going to be? What 
time is it? We've been waiting an 
hour! What kind of people are they 
down there?" 

"Maybe they've forgotten about 
us," said Fong. 



"That's it!" cried Parker. 
"They've forgotten about us! Hey, 
you! Down there — you that talked 
to us! We're still here, damn it! We 
want to land!" 

"Parker," said Captain Wiley, 
sternly. 

Parker sat down on his couch, his 
lips quivering. 

Then came the voice: 

"We regret that a landing is im- 
possible at this moment. Our field 
is overcrowded, and your vessel is 
without priority. You must wait 
your turn." 

Captain Wiley stared forward at 
nothing. "Whoever you are," he 
whispered, "please understand that 
we have come a long way to reach 
your planet. Our trip . . ." 

"We do not wish to discuss your 
trip. You will be notified when 
landing space is available." 

Captain Wiley's body shook. 
"Wait, tell us who you are. What 
do you look like? Tell us . . ." 

"Talking to you is quite difficult. 
We must form our thoughts so as 
to form word-patterns in your 
minds. You will be notified." 

"Wait a minute!" called Captain 
Wiley. 

No answer. 

Captain Wiley straightened in an 
effort to maintain dignity. 

They waited. . . . 

IT WAS NIGHT. 
The darkness was an impene- 
trable blanket, a solid thing, like 
thick black velvet glued over the 
ports. It was worse than the dark- 
ness of space. 

Captain Wiley sat before the 
control panel, slowly beating his 



THE LONELY ONES 



97 



fists against the arms of his chair, a 
human metronome ticking off the 
slow seconds. 

Parker stood before a porthole. 

"Hey, look. Captain! There's a 
streak of red, like a meteor. And 
there's another!" 

Captain Wiley rose, looked out. 
"They're rockets. They're going to 
land. These people are highly ad- 
vanced." 

His face became grim. Below 
them lay a planet, an intelligent 
race hidden beneath clouds and 
darkness. What manner of creatures 
were they? How great was their 
civilization? What marvelous se- 
crets had their scientists discovered? 
What was their food like, their 
women, their whiskey? 

The questions darted endlessly 
through his mind like teasing 
needle-points. All these wondrous 
things lay below them, and here 
they sat, like starving men, their 
hands tied, gazing upon a steaming 
but unobtainable dinner. So near 
and yet so far. 

He trembled. The emotion grew 
within him until it burst out as wa- 
ter bursts through the cracked wall 
of a dam. He became like Parker. 

"Why should we wait?" he 
yelled. "Why must we land in their 
field? Parker! Prepare to release 
flares! We're going down! We'll 
land anywhere — in a street, in the 
country. We don't have to wait for 
orders!" 

Parker bounced off his couch. 
Someone called, "Brown, we're go- 
ing to land!" 

A scurrying of feet, the rush of 
taut-muscled bodies, the babble of 
excited voices. 

"We're going down!" 



"We're going down!" 

The grumble of the Wanderer's 
jets loudened, softened, spluttered, 
loudened again. Vibration filled the 
ship as it sank downward. 

Suddenly it lurched upward, like 
a child's ball caught in a stream of 
rising water. The jolt staggered the 
men. They seized stanchions and 
bulkhead railings to keep their bal- 
ance. 

"What the hell?" 

Abruptly, the strange movement 
ceased. The ship seemed motionless. 
There was no vibration. 

"Captain," said Lieutenant Gun- 
derson. "There's no change in alti- 
tude. We're still at 35,000 feet, no 
more, no less." 

"We must be going down," said 
Captain Wiley, puzzled. "Kill jets 
4 and 6." 

The Lieutenant's hands flicked 
off two switches. A moment later: 
"There's no change. Captain." 

Then came the voice: 

"To those in the vessel from the 
planet Earth : Please do not oppose 
orders of the Landing Council. You 
are the first visitors in the history of 
our world whom we have had to 
restrain with physical force. You 
will be notified when landing space 
is available." 



ORNING. 

The warm sunlight streamed 
into the clouds, washing away the 
last shadows and filtering through 
the portholes. 

The men breakfasted, bathed, 
shaved, smoked, sat, twisted their 
fingers, looked out the ports. They 
were silent men, with dark shadows 
about their eyes and with tight. 



:fS 



EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



white-lipped mouths. 

Frequently, the clouds near them 
were cut by swift, dark shapes 
swooping downward. The shapes 
were indistinct in the cotton-like 
whiteness, but obviously they were 
huge, like a dozen Wanderers made 
into one. 

"Those ships are big," someone 
murmured, without enthusiasm. 

"It's a busy spaceport," grumbled 
Captain Wiley. 

Thoughts, words, movements 
came so slowly it was like walking 
under water. Enthusiasm was dead. 
The men were automatons, sitting, 
waiting, eating, sitting, waiting. 

A day passed, and a night. 

"Maybe they've forgotten us," 
said Fong. 

No one answered. The thought 
had been voiced before, a hun- 
dred times. 

Then, at last, the droning words: 

"To those in the vessel from the 
planet Earth: You will now land. 
We will carry you directly over the 
field. Then you will descend 
straight down. The atmosphere is 
suitable to your type of hfe and is 
free of germs. You will not need 
protection." 

The men stared at one another. 

"Hey," Doyle said, "did you hear 
that? He says we can go down." 

The men blinked. Captain Wiley 
swallowed hard. He rose with a 
stiff, slow, nervous hesitancy. 

"We're going down," he mum- 
bled, as if repeating the words over 
and over in his mind and trying to 
believe them. 

The men stirred as realization 
sprouted and grew. They stirred 
like lethargic animals aroused from 



the long, dreamless sleep of hiber- 
nation. 

"We're going to land," breathed 
Parker, unbelievingly. 

The Wanderer moved as though 
caught in the grip of a giant, in- 
visible hand. 

The voice said : 

"You may now descend." 

Captain Wiley moved to the Jet- 
control panel. "Lieutenant!" he 
snapped. "Wake up. Let's go!" 

The ship sank downward through 
the thick sea of clouds. The men 
walked to the ports. A tenseness, an 
excitement grew in their faces, like 
dying flame being fanned into its 
former brilliancy. 

Out of the clouds loomed mon- 
strous, shining, silver spires and 
towers, Cyclopean bridges, gigantic 
lake-like mirrors, immense golden 
spheres. It was a nightmare world, 
a jungle of fantastic shape and 
color. 

The men gasped, whispered, 
murmured, the flame of their ex- 
citement growing, growing. 

"The whole planet is a city!" 
breathed Parker. 



THUMP! 
The Wanderer came to rest 
on a broad landing field of light 
blue stone. The jets coughed, splut- 
tered, died. The ship quivered, then 
lay still, its interior charged with 
an electric, pregnant silence. 

"You first. Captain." Lieutenant 
Gunderson's voice cracked, and his 
face was flushed. "You be the first 
to go outside." 

Captain Wiley stepped through 
the airlock, his heart pounding. It 
was over now — all the bewilder- 



THE LONELY ONES 



99 



ment, the numbness. 

And his eyes were shining. He'd 
waited so long that it was hard to 
beheve the waiting was over. But it 
was, he told himself. The journey 
was over, and the waiting, and now 
the loneliness would soon be over. 
Mankind was not alone. It was a 
good universe after all! 

He stepped outside, followed by 
Lieutenant Gunderson, then by 
Parker, Doyle and Fong. 

He rubbed his eyes. This couldn't 
be! A world like this couldn't exist! 
He shook his head, blinked furious- 
ly- 

"It — it can't be true," he mum- 
bled to Lieutenant Gunderson. 
"We're still on the ship — dream- 
ing." 

The landing field was huge, per- 
haps ten miles across, and its sides 
were lined with incredible ships, 
the smallest of which seemed forty 
times as large as the Wanderer. 
There were silver ships, golden 
ships, black ships, round ships, 
transparent ships, cigar-shaped 
ships, flat-topped ships. 

And scattered over the field were 
— creatures. 

A few were the size of men, but 
most were giants by comparison. 
Some were humanoid, some reptil- 
ian. Some were naked, some clad 
in helmeted suits, some enveloped 
with a shimmering, water-like lu- 
minescence. The creatures walked, 
slithered, floated, crawled. 

Beyond the ships and the field lay 
the great city, its web-work of tow- 
ers, minarets, spheres and bridges 
like the peaks of an enormous 
mountain range stretching up into 
space itself. The structures were 
like the colors of a rainbow mixed 



in a cosmic paint pot, molded and 
solidified into fantastic shapes by a 
mad god. 

"I — I'm going back to the ship," 
stammered Parker. The whiteness 
of death was in his face. "I'm go- 
ing to stay with Brown." 

He turned, and then he 
screamed. 

"Captain, the ship's moving!" 

Silently, the Wanderer was drift- 
ing to the side of the field. 

The toneless voice said: 

"We are removing your vessel so 
that other descending ships will not 
damage it." 

Captain Wiley shouted into the 
air. "Wait! Don't go -away! Help 
us! Where can we see you?" 

The voice seemed to hesitate. "It 
is difficult for us to speak in 
thoughts that you understand." 



SILENCE. 
Captain Wiley studied the 
faces of his men. They were not 
faces of conquerors or of trium- 
phant spacemen. They were the 
faces of dazed, frightened children 
who had caught a glimpse of Hell. 
He attempted, feebly, to smile. 

"All right," he said loudly, "so 
it isn't like we expected. So no one 
came to meet us with brass bands 
and ten cent flags-. We've still suc- 
ceeded, haven't we? We've found 
life that's intelligent beyond our 
comprehension. What if our own 
civilization is insignificant by com- 
parison? Look at those beings. 
Think of what we can learn from 
them. Why, their ships might have 
exceeded the speed of light. They 
might be from other galaxies!" 

"Let's find out," said Parker. 



100 



EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



They strode to the nearest ship, 
an immense, smooth, bluish sphere. 
Two creatures stood before it, 
shaped like men and yet twice the 
size of men. They wore white, skin- 
tight garments that revealed mus- 
cular bodies like those of gods. 

The looked at Captain Wiley 
and smiled. 

One of them pointed toward the 
Wanderer. Their smiles widened 
and then they laughed. 

They laughed gently, under- 
standingly, but they laughed. 

And then they turned away. 

"Talk to them," Parker urged. 

"How?" Beads of perspiration 
shone on Captain Wiley's face. 

"Any way. Go ahead." 

Captain Wiley wiped his fore- 
head. "We are from Earth, the 
third planet . . . ." 

The two god-like men seemed an- 
noyed. They walked away, ignor- 
ing the Earthmen. 

Captain Wiley spat. "All right, so 
they won't talk to us. Look at that 
city! Think of the things we can see 
there and tell the folks on Earth 
about! Why, we'll be heroes!" 

"Let's go," said Parker, his voice 
quavering around the edges. 

They walked toward a large, oval 
opening in a side of the field, a 
hole between mountainous, conical 
structures that seemed like the en- 
trance to a street. 

Suddenly breath exploded from 
Captain Wiley's lungs. His body 
jerked back. He fell to the blue 
stone pavement. 

Then he scrambled erect, scowl- 
ing, his hands outstretched. He felt 
a soft, rubbery, invisible substance. 

"It's a wall!" he exclaimed. 

The voice droned: 



"To those of Earth: Beings un- 
der the 4th stage of Galactic De- 
velopment are restricted to the area 
of the landing field. We are sorry. 
In your primitive stage it would be 
unwise for you to learn the nature 
of our civilization. Knowledge of 
our science would be abused by 
your people, and used for the thing 
you call war. We hope that you 
have been inspired by what you 
have seen. However, neither we nor 
the other visitors to our planet are 
permitted to hold contact with you. 
It is suggested that you and your 
vessel depart." 

"Listen, you!" screamed Parker. 
"We've been nine years getting 
here! By Heaven, we won't leave 
now! We're . . ." 

"We have no time to discuss the 
matter. Beings under the 4th stage 
of Galactic . . ." 

"Never mind!" spat Captain 
Wiley. 

Madness flamed in Parker's 
eyes. "We won't go! I tell you, we 
won't, we won't!" 

His fists streaked through the air 
as if at an invisible enemy. He ran 
toward the wall. 

He collided with a jolt that sent 
him staggering backward, crying, 
sobbing, screaming, all at once. 

Captain Wiley stepped forward, 
struck him on the chin. Parker 
crumpled. 

They stood looking at his body, 
which lay motionless except for the 
slow rising and falling of his chest. 

"What now, Captain?" asked 
Lieutenant Gunderson. 

Captain Wiley thought for a few 
secorids. 

Then he said, "We're ignorant 
country bumpkins, Lieutenant, rid- 



THE LONELY ONES 



101 



ing into the city in a chugging ja- 
lopy. We're stupid savages, trying 
to discuss the making of fire with 
the creators of atomic energy. We're 
children racing a paper glider 
against an atomic-powered jet. 
We're too ridiculous to be noticed. 
We're tolerated — but nothing 
more." 

"Shall we go home?" asked 
Fong, a weariness in his voice. 

Lieutenant Gunderson scratched 
his neck. "I don't think I'd want to 
go home now. Could you bear to 
tell the truth about what hap- 
pened?" 

Fong looked wistfully at the shin- 
ing city. "If we told the truth, they 
probably wouldn't believe us. 
We've failed. It sounds crazy. We 
reached Proxima Centauri and 
found life, and yet somehow we 
failed. No, I wouldn't like to go 
home." 

"Still, we learned something," 
said Doyle. "We know now that 
there is life on worlds beside our 
own. Somewhere there must be 
other races like ours." 

They looked at each other, 
strangely, for a long, long moment. 

At last Lieutenant Gunderson 
asked, "How far is Alpha Cen- 
tauri?" 

Captain Wiley frovmed. "Alpha 
Centauri?" Through his mind 
swirled chaotic visions of colossal 
distances, eternal night, and lonely 



years. He sought hard to find a 
seed of hope in his mind, and yet 
there was no seed. There were only 
a coldness and an emptiness. 

Suddenly, the voice: 

"Yes, Men of Earth, we suggest 
that you try Alpha Centauri." 

The men stood silent and numb, 
like bewildered children, as the im- 
plication of those incredible woi:ds 
sifted into their consciousness. 

Finally Fong said, "Did — did you 
hear that? He said . . ." 

Captain Sam Wiley nodded, very 
slowly. "Yes. Alpha Centauri. 
Alpha Centauri." 

His eyes began to twinkle, and 
then he smiled. . . . 

ONWARD sped the Wanderer, 
onward through cold, silent in- 
finity, on and on, an insignificant 
pencil of silver lost in the terrible, 
brooding blackness. 

Yet even greater than the black- 
ness was the flaming hope in the 
six men who inhabited the silver 
rocket. They moved in hope as fish 
move in water. Their lives revolved 
in hope as planets revolve in space 
and time. They bore their hope 
like a jeweled crown, and it was as 
much a part of them as sight in 
their eyes. Hope was both their 
brother and their god. 

And there was no loneliness. 



- THE END - 



Progress is relative; Senator O'Noonan's idea of it was not 
particularly scientific. Which would be too bad, if he had 
the last word! 



Progress Report 



By Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolldes 



Illustrated by PAUL ORBAN 



IT SEEMED to Colonel Jennings 
that the air conditioning unit 
merely washed the hot air around 
him without lowering the tempera- 
ture from that outside. He knew it 
was partly psychosomatic, com- 
pounded of the view of the silvery 
spire of the test ship through the 
heatwaves of the Nevada landscape 
and the knowledge that this was 
the day, the hour, and the minutes. 

The final test was at hand. The 
instrument ship was to be sent out 
into space, controlled from this 
sunken concrete bunker, to find out 
if the flimsy bodies of men could 
endure there. 

Jennings visualized other bunk- 
ers scattered through the area, ob- 
servation posts, and farther away 
the field headquarters with open 
telephone lines to tlie Pentagon, and 
beyond that a world waiting for 
news of the test — and not everyone 
wishing it well. 

The monotonous buzz of the field 



phone pulled him away from his 
fascinated gaze at the periscope 
slit. He glanced at his two assistants. 
Professor Stein and Major Eddy. 
They were seated in front of their 
control boards, staring at .the blank 
eyes of their radar screens, patient- 
ly enduring the beads of sweat on 
their faces and necks and hands, 
the odor of it .arising from their 
bodies. They too were feeling the 
moment. He picked up the phone. 

"Jennings," -he said crisply. 

"Zero minus one half hour, 
Colonel. We start alert count in 
fifteen minutes." 

"Right," Colonel Jennings spoke 
softly, showing none of the excite- 
ment he felt. He replaced the field 
phone on its hook and spoke to the 
two men in front of him. 

"This is it. Apparently this time 
we'll go through with it." 

Major Eddy's shoulders hunched 
a trifle, as if he were getting set to 
have a load placed upon them. 
02 



104 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES 



Professor Stein gave no indication 
that he had heard. His thin body 
was stooped over his instrument 
bank, intense, alert, as if he were a 
runner crouched at the starting 
mark, as if he were young again. 

Colonel Jennings walked over to 
the periscope slit again and peered 
through the shimmer of heat to 
where the silvery ship lay arrowed 
in her cradle. The last few mo- 
ments of waiting, with a brassy 
taste in his mouth, with the vision 
of the test ship before him; these 
were the worst. 

Everything had been done, 
checked and rechecked hours and 
days ago. He found himself wish- 
ing there were some little thing, 
some desperate little error which 
must be corrected hurriedly, just 
something to break the tension of 
waiting. 

"You're all right, Sam, Prof?" he 
asked the major and professor un- 
necessarily. 

"A httle nervous," Major Eddy 
answered without moving. 

"Of course," Professor Stein 
said. There was a too heavy stress 
on the silibant sound, as if the last 
traces of accent had not yet been 
removed. 

"I expect everyone is nervous, 
not just the hundreds involved in 
this, but everywhere," Jennings 
commented. And then ruefully, 
"Except Professor Stein there. I 
thought surely Fd see some nerves 
at this point. Prof." He was at- 
tempting to make light conversa- 
tion, something to break the strain 
of mounting buck fever. 

"If I let even one nerve tendril 
slack, Colonel, I would go to pieces 
entirely," Stein said precisely, in the 



way a man speaks who has learned 
the language from text books. "So 
I do not think of our ship at all. I 
think of mankind. I wonder if man- 
kind is as ready as our ship. I won- 
der if man will do any better on 
the planets than he has done here." 
"Well, of course," Colonel Jen- 
nings answered with sympathy in 
his voice, "under Hitler and all the 
things you went through, I don't 
blame you for being a little bitter. 
But not all mankind is like that, you 
know. As long as you've been in 
our country, Professor, you've nev- 
er looked around you. You've been 
working on this, never lifting your 
head " 



HE JERKED in annoyance as a 
red light blinked over the emer- 
gency circuit, and a buzzing, sharp 
and repeated, broke into this mo- 
ment when he felt he was actually 
reaching, touching Stein, as no one 
had before. 

He dragged the phone toward 
him and began speaking angrily 
into its mouthpiece before he had 
brought it to his lips. 

"What the hell's the matter now? 
They're not going to call it off 
again! Three times now, and . . ." 

He broke off and frowned as the 
crackling voice came through the 
receiver, the vein on his temple 
pulsing in his stress. 

"I beg your pardon. General," he 
said, much more quietly. 

The two men turned from their 
radar scopes and watched him 
questioningly. He shrugged his 
shoulders, an indication to them of 
his helplessness. 

"You're not going to like this, 



PROGRESS REPORT 



105 



Jim," the general was saying. "But . 
it's orders from Pentagon. Are you 
familiar with Senator O'Noonan?" 

"Vaguely," Jennings answered. 

"You'll be more familiar with 
him, Jim. He's been newly ap- 
pointed chairman of the appropria- 
tions committee covering our work. 
And he's fought it bitterly from the 
beginning. He's tried every way he 
could to scrap the entire project. 
When we've finished this test, Jim, 
we'll have used up our appropria- 
tions to date. Whether we get any 
more depends on him." 

"Yes, sir?" Jennings spoke ques- 
tioningly. Political maneuvering was 
not his problem, that was between 
Pentagon and Congress. 

"We must have his support, Jim," 
the general explained. "Pentagon 
hasn't been able to win him over. 
He's stubborn and violent in his re- 
actions. The fact it keeps him in 
the headlines — well, of course that 
wouldn't have any bearing. So 
Pentagon invited him to come to 
the field here to watch the test, hop- 
ing that would win him over." The 
general hesitated, then continued. 

"I've gone a step farther. I felt 
if he was actually at the center of 
control, your operation, he might 
be won over. If he could actually 
participate, press the activating key 
or something, if the headlines could 
show he was working with us, actu- 
ally sent the test ship on its 
flight. . ." 

"General, you can't," Jennings 
moaned. He forgot rank, every- 
thing. 

"I've already done it, Jim," the 
general chose to ignore the out- 
burst. "He's due there now. I'll look 



to you to handle it. He's got to be 
won over. Colonel. It's your pro- 
ject." Considering the years that he 
and the general had worked to- 
gether, the warm accord and in- 
formality between them, the use of 
Jennings' title made it an order. 

"Yes, sir," he said. 

"Over," said the general for- 
mally. 

"Out," whispered Jennings. 

The two men looked at him ques- 
tioningly. 

"It seems," he answered their 
look, "we are to have an observer. 
Senator O'Noonan." 

"Even in Germany," Professor 
Stein said quietly, "they knew 
enough to leave us alone at a criti- 
cal moment." 

"He can't do it, Jim," Major 
Eddy looked at Jennings with 
pleading eyes. 

"Oh, but he can," Jennings an- 
swered bitterly. "Orders. And you 
know what orders are, don't you, 
Major?" 

"Yes, sir," Major Eddy said 
stiffly. 

Professor Stein smiled ruefully. 

Both of them turned back to their 
instruraent boards, their radar 
screens, to the protective obscurity 
of subordinates carrying out an as- 
signment. They were no longer 
three men coming close together, 
almost understanding one another 
in this moment of waiting, when the 
world and all in it had been shut 
away, and nothing real existed ex- 
cept the silvery spire out there on 
the desert and the life of it in the 
controls at their fingertips. 

"Beep, minus fifteen minutes!" 
the first time signal sounded. 



106 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES 



"ftOLONEL JENNINGS, sir!" 

U The senator appeared in the 
low doorway and extended a fleshy 
hand. His voice was hearty, but 
there was no warnath behind his 
tones. He paused on the threshold, 
bulky, impressive, as if he were 
about to deliver an address. But 
Jennings, while shaking hands, drew 
him into the bunker, pointedly, 
causing the senator to raise bushy 
eyebrows and stare at him specu- 
latively. 

"At this point everything runs on 
a split second basis, Senator," he 
said crisply. "Ceremony comes after 
the test." His implication was that 
when the work was done, the sena- 
tor could have his turn in the lime- 
light, take all the credit, turn it 
into political fodder to be thrown 
to the people. But because the man 
was chairman of the appropriations 
committee, he softened his abrupt- 
ness. "If the timing is off even a 
small fraction. Senator, we would 
have to scrap the flight and start all 
over." 

"At additional expense, no 
doubt." The senator could also be 
crisp. "Surprises me that the mili- 
tary should think of that, however." 

The closing of the heavy doors 
behind him punctuated his remark 
and caused him to step to the center 
of the bunker. Where there had 
seemed adequate room before, now 
the feeling was one of oppressive 
overcrowding. 

Unconsciously, Major Eddy 
squared his elbows as if to clear 
the space around him for the ma- 
nipulation of his controls. Professor 
Stein sat at his radar screen, quiet, 
immobile, a part of the mechan- 
isms. He was accustomed to over- 



bearing authority whatever politi- 
cal tag it might wear at the mo- 
ment. 

"Beep. Eleven minutes," the sig- 
nal sounded. 

"Perhaps you'll be good enough 
to brief me on just what you're do- 
ing here?" the senator asked, and 
implied by the tone of his voice 
that it couldn't be very much. "In 
layman's language. Colonel. Don't 
try to make it impressive with tech- 
nical obscurities. I want my pro- 
gress report on this project to be 
understandable to everyone." 

Jennings looked at him in dis- 
may. Was the man kidding him? 
Explain the zenith of science, the 
culmination of the dreams of man 
in twenty simple words or less! And 
about ten minutes to win over a 
man which the Pentagon had failed 
to win. 

"Perhaps you'd like to sit here, 
Senator," he said courteously. 
"When we learned you were com- 
ing, we felt yours should be the 
honor. At zero time, you press this 
key — here. It will be your hand 
which sends the test ship out into 
space." 

Apparently they were safe. The 
senator knew so little, he did not 
realize the automatic switch would 
close with the zero time signal, that 
no hand could be trusted to press 
the key at precisely the right time, 
that the senator's key was a dummy. 

"Beep, ten," the signal came 
through. 

Jennings went back over to the 
periscope and peered through the 
slit. He felt strangely surprised to 
see the silver column of the ship 
still there. The calm, the scientific 
detachment, the warm thrill of co- 



PROGRESS REPORT 



107 



ordinated effort, all were gone. He 
felt as if the test flight itself was 
secondary to what the senator 
thought about it, what he would 
say in his progress report. 

He wondered if the senator's pro- 
gress report would compare in any 
particular with the one on the ship. 
That was a chart, representing as 
far as they could tell, the minimum 
and maximum tolerances of human 
life. If the multiple needles, tracing 
their continuous lines, went over the 
black boundaries of tolerances, hu- 
man beings would die at that point. 
Such a progress report, showing the 
life-sustaining conditions at each 
point throughout the ship's flight, 
would have some meaning. He won- 
dered what meaning the senator's 
progress report would have. 

He felt himself being pushed 
aside from the periscope. There was 
no ungentleness in the push, simply 
the determined pressure of an ar- 
rogant man who was accustomed to 
being in the center of things, and 
thinking nothing of shoving to get 
there. The senator gave him the 
briefest of explanatory looks, and 
placed his own eye at the periscope 
slit. 

"Beep, nine," the signal sounded. 

"So that's what represents two 
billion dollars," the senator said 
contemptuously. "That little sliver 
of metal." 

"The two billion dollar atomic 
bomb was even smaller," Jennings 
said quietly. 



THE SENATOR took his eye 
away from the periscope briefly 
and looked at Jennings specu- 
latively. 



"The story of where all that 
money went still hasn't been told," 
he said pointedly. "But the story of 
who got away with this two billion 
will be different." 

Colonel Jennings said nothing. 
The white hot rage mounting with- 
in him made it impossible for him 
to speak. 

The senator straightened up and 
walked back over to his chair. He 
waved a hand in the direction of 
Major Eddy. 

"What does that man do?" he 
asked, as if the major were not pres- 
ent, or was unable to comprehend. 

"Major Eddy," Jennings found 
control of his voice, "operates re- 
mote control." He was trying to re- 
duce the vast complexity of the op- 
eration to the simplest possible lan- 
guage. 

"Beep, eight," the signal inter- 
rupted him. 

"He will guide the ship through- 
out its entire flight, just as if he 
were sitting in it." 

"Why isn't he sitting in it?" the 
senator asked. 

"That's what the test is for, Sena- 
tor." Jennings felt his voice becom- 
ing icy. "We don't know if space 
will permit human life. We don't 
know what's out there." 

"Best way to find out is for a man 
to go out there and see," the senator 
commented shortly. "I want to find 
out something, I go look at it my- 
self. I don't depend on charts and 
graphs, and folderol." 

The major did not even hunch 
his broad shoulders, a characteris- 
tic gesture, to show that he had 
heard, to show that he wished the 
senator was out there in untested 
space. 



108 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES 



"What about him? He's not even 
in uniform!" 

"Professor Stein maintains sight 
contact on the scope and transmits 
the IFF pulse." 

The senator's eyes flashed again 
beneath heavy brows. His lips in- 
dicated what he thought of profes- 
sors and projects who used them. 

"What's IFF?" he asked. 

The colonel looked at him in- 
credulously. It was on the tip of 
his tongue to ask where the man 
had been during the war. He de- 
cided he'd better not ask it. He 
might learn. 

"It stands for Identification — 
Friend or Foe, Senator. It's army 
jargon." 

"Beep, seven." 

Seven minutes, Jennings thought, 
and here I am trying to explain the 
culmination of the entire science of 
all mankind to a lardbrain in sim- 
ple kindergarten words. Well, he'd 
wished there was something to 
break the tension of the last half 
hour, keep him occupied. He had 
it. 

"You mean the army wouldn't 
know, after the ship got up, wheth- 
er it was ours or the enemy's?" the 
senator asked incredulously. 

"There are meteors in space. 
Senator," Jennings said carefully. 
"Radar contact is all we'll have out 
there. The IFF mechanism recon- 
verts our beam to a predetermined 
pulse, and it bounces back to us in 
a different pattern. That's the only 
way we'd know if we were still on 
the ship, or have by chance fas- 
tened on to a meteor." 

"What has that got to do with 
the enemy?" O'Noonan asked un- 
comprehendingly. 



Jennings sighed, almost audibly. 

"The mechanism was developed 
during the war, when we didn't 
know which planes were ours and 
which the enemy's. We've simply 
adapted it to this use — to save 
money, Senator." 

"Humph!" the senator expressed 
his disbelief. "Top complicated. 
The world has grown too compli- 
cated." 

"Beep, six." 

The senator glanced irritably at 
the time speaker. It had interrupt- 
ed his speech. But he chose to ig- 
nore the interruption, that was the 
way to handle heckling. 

"I am a simple man. I come 
from simple parentage. I represent 
the simple people, the common 
people, the people with their feet 
on the ground. And the whole 
world needs to get back to the sim- 
ple truths and honesties . . . ." 

Jennings headed off the cam- 
paign speech which might appeal 
to the mountaineers of the sena- 
tor's home state, where a man's ac- 
complishments were judged by 
how far he could spit tobacco 
juice; it had little application in 
this bunker where the final test be- 
fore the flight of man to the stars 
was being tried. 

"To us. Senator," he said gently, 
"this ship represents simple truths 
and honesties. We are, at this mo- 
ment, testing the truths of all that 
mankind has ever thought of, the- 
orized about, believed of the space 
which surrounds the Earth. A farm- 
er may hear about new methods of 
growing crops, but the only way he 
knows whether they're practical or 
not is to try them on his own land." 

The senator looked at him im- 



PROGRESS REPORT 



109 



passively. Jennings didn't know 
whether he was going over or not. 
But he was trying. 

"All that ship, and all the instru- 
ments it contains; those represent 
the utmost honesties of the men 
who worked on them. Nobody tried 
to bluff, to get by with shoddy 
workmanship, cover up ignorance. 
A farmer does not try to bluff his 
land, for the crops he gets tells the 
final story. Scientists, too, have sim- 
ple honesty. They have to have, 
Senator, for the results will show 
them up if they don't." 



THE SENATOR looked at him 
speculatively, and with a grow- 
ing respect. Not a bad speech, that. 
Not a bad speech at all. If this tom- 
foolery actually worked, and it 
might, that could be the approach 
in selling it to his constituents. By 
implication, he could take full 
credit, put over the impression that 
it was he who had stood over the 
scientists making sure they were as 
honest and simple as the mountain 
farmers. Many a man has gone into 
the White House with less. 

"Beep, five." 

Five more minutes. The sudden 
thought occurred to O'Noonan: 
what if he refused to press the 
dummy key? Refused to take part 
in this project he called tomfool- 
ery? Perhaps they thought they 
were being clever in having him 
take part in the ship's launching, 
and were by that act committing 
him to something .... 

"This is the final test, Senator. 
After this one, if it is right, man 
leaps to the stars!" It was Jen- 
nings' plea, his final attempt to 



catch the senator up in the fire and 
the dream. 

"And then more yapping colon- 
ists wanting statehood," the senator 
said dryly. "Upsetting the balance 
of power. Changing things." 

Jennings was silent. 

"Beep, four." 

"More imports trying to get into 
our country duty-free," O'Noonan 
went on. "Upsetting our economy." 

His vision was of lobbyists threat- 
ening to cut off contributions if 
their own industries were not kept 
in a favorable position. Of grim- 
jawed industrialists who could easily 
put a more tractable candidate up 
in his place to be elected by the 
free and thinking people of his 
state. All the best catch phrases, the 
semantically-loaded promises, the 
advertising appropriations being 
used by his opponent. 

It was a dilemma. Should he 
jump on the bandwagon of ad- 
vancement to the stars, hoping to 
catch the imagination of the voters 
by it? Were the voters really in 
favor of progress? What could this 
space flight put in the dinner pails 
of the Smiths, the Browns, the 
Johnsons? It was all very well to 
talk about the progress of mankind, 
but that was the only measure to 
be considered. Any politician knew 
that. And apparently no scientist 
knew it. Man advances only when 
he sees how it will help him stuff 
his gut. 

"Beep, three." For a full minute, 
the senator had sat lost in specula- 
tion. 

And what could he personally 
gain? A plan, full-formed, sprang 
into his mind. This whole deal 
could be taken out of the hands of 



no 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES- 



the military on charges of waste 
and corruption. It could be brought 
back into the control of private in- 
dustry, where it belonged. He 
thought of vast tracts of land in his 
own state, tracts he could buy 
cheap, through dummy companies, 
places which could be made very 
suitable for the giant factories 
necessary to manufacture space- 
ships. 

As chairman of the appropria- 
tions committee, it wouldn't be 
difficult to sway the choice of site. 
And all that extra employment for 
the people of his own state. The 
voters couldn't forget plain, simple, 
honest O'Noonan after that! 

"Beep, two." 



JENNINGS FELT the sweat 
beads increase on his forehead. 
His collar was already soaking wet. 
He had been watching the senator 
through two long minutes, terrible 
eon-consuming minutes, the impas- 
sive face showing only what the 
senator wanted it to show. He saw 
the face now soften into something 
approaching benignity, nobility. 
The head came up, the silvery hair 
tossed back. 

"Son," he said with a ringing 
thrill in his voice. "Mankind much 
reach the stars! We must allow 
nothing to stop that! No personal 
consideration, no personal belief, 
nothing must stand in the way of 
mankind's greatest dream!" 

His eyes were shrewdly watching 
the effect upon Jennings' face, 
measuring through him the effect 
such a speech would have upon the 
voters. He saw the relief spread 
over Jennings' face, the glow. Yes, 



it might work. 

"Now, son," he said with kindly 
tolerance, "tell me what you want 
me to do about pressing this key 
when the time comes." 

"Beep, one." 

And then the continuous drone 
while the seconds were being count- 
ed off aloud. 

"Fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty- 
seven — " 

The droning went on while Jen- 
nings showed the senator just how 
to press the dummy key down, ex- 
plaining it in careful detail, and 
just when. 

"Thirty-seven, thirty-six, thirty- 
five—" 

"Major!" Jennings called ques- 
tioningly. 

"Ready, sir." 

"Professor!" 

"Ready, sir." 

"Three, two, one, ZERO!" 

"Press it, Senator!" Jennings 
called frantically. 

Already the automatic firing 
stud had taken over. The bellow- 
ing, roaring flames reached down 
with giant strength, nudging the 
ship upward, seeming to hang sus- 
pended, waiting. 

"Press it!" 

The senator's hand pressed the 
dummy key. He was committed. 

As if the ship had really been 
waiting, it lifted, faster and faster. 

"Major?" 

"I have it, sir." The major's 
hands were flying over his bank of 
controls, correcting the slight un- 
balance of thrusts, holding the ship 
as steady as if he were in it. 

Already the ship was beyond 
visual sight, picking up speed. But 
the pip on the radar screens was 



PROGRESS REPORT 



111 



strong and clear. The drone of the 
IFF returning signal was equally 
strong. 

The senator sat and waited. He 
had done his job. He felt it per- 
haps would have been better to 
have had the photographers on the 
spot, but realized the carefully di- 
rected and rehearsed pictures to be 
taken later would make better vote 
fodder. 

"It's already out in space now, 
Senator," Jennings found a second 
of time to call it to the senator. 

The pips and the signals were 
bright and clear, coming through 
the ionosphere, the Heaviside layer 
as they had been designed to do. 
Jennings wondered if the senator 
could ever be made to understand 
the simple honesty of scientists who 
had worked that out so well and 
true. Bright and strong and clear. 

And then there was nothing! The 
screens were blank. The sounds 
were gone. 



JENNINGS STOOD in stupefied 
silcncG. 

"It shut! It shut off!" Major 
Eddy's voice was shrill in amaze- 
ment. 

"It cut right out, Colonel. No 
fade, no dying signal, just out!" It 
was the first time Jennings had ever 
heard a note of excitement in Pro- 
fessor Stein's voice. 

The phone began to ring, loud 
and shrill. That would be from the 
General's observation post, where 
he, too, must have lost the signal. 

The excitement penetrated the 
senator's rosy dream of vast acre- 
ages being sold at a huge profit, 
giant walls of factories going up 



under his remote-control owner- 
ship. "What's wrong?" he asked. 

Jennings did not answer him. 
"What was the altitude?" he asked. 
The phone continued to ring, but 
he was not yet ready to answer it. 

"Hundred fifty miles, maybe a 
little more," Major Eddy answered 
in a dull voice. "And then, noth- 
ing," he repeated incredulously. 
"Nothing." 

The phone was one long ring 
now, taken off of automatic signal 
and rung with a hand key pressed 
down and held there. In a daze, 
Jennings picked up the phone. 

"Yes, General," he answered as 
though he were no more than a 
robot. He hardly listened to the 
general's questions, did not need 
the report that every radarscope 
throughout the area had lost con- 
tact at the same instant. Somehow 
he had known that would be true, 
that it wasn't just his own mechan- 
isms failing. One question did 
penetrate his stunned mind. 

"How is the senator taking it?" 
the general asked finally. 

"Uncomprehending, as yet," Jen- 
nings answered cryptically. "But 
even there it will penetrate sooner 
or later. We'll have to face it then." 

"Yes," the general sighed. "What 
about safety? What if it fell on a 
big city, for example?" 

"It had escape velocity," Jen- 
nings answered. "It would simply 
follow its trajectory indefinitely — 
which was away from Earth." 

"What's happening now?" the 
senator asked arrogantly. He had 
been out of the limelight long 
enough, longer than was usual or 
necessary. He didn't like it when 
people went about their business as 



112 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES 



if he were not present. 

"Quiet during the test, Senator," 
Jennings took his mouth from the 
phone long enough to reprove the 
man gently. Apparently he got 
away with it, for the senator put 
his finger to his lips knowingly and 
sat back again. 

"The senator's starting to ask 
questions?" the general asked into 
the phone. 

"Yes, sir. It won't be long now." 

"I hate to contemplate it, Jim," 
the general said in apprehension. 
"There's only one way he'll trans- 
late it. Two billion dollars shot up 
into the air and lost." Then sharply. 
"There must be something you've 
done. Colonel. Some mistake you've 
made." 



THE IMPLIED accusation struck 
at Jennings' stomach, a heavy 
blow. 

"That's the way it's going to be?" 
he stated the question, knowing its 
answer. 

"For the good of the service," the 
general answered with a stock 
phrase. "If it is the fault of one 
officer and his men, we may be 
given another chance. If it is the 
failure of science itself, we won't." 

"I see," the colonel answered. 

"You won't be the first soldier. 
Colonel, to be unjustly punished to 
maintain public faith in the serv- 
ice." 

"Yes, sir," Jennings answered as 
formally as if he were already fac- 
ing court martial. 

"It's back!" Major Eddy shout- 
ed in his excitement. "It's back, 
Colonell" 

The pip, truly, showed startlingly 



clear and sharp on the radarscope, 
the correct signals were coming in 
sure and strong. As suddenly as the 
ship had cut out, it was back. 

"It's back, General," Colonel 
Jennings shouted into the phone, 
his eyes fixed upon his own radar- 
scope. He dropped the phone with- 
out waiting for the general's an- 
swer. 

"Good," exclaimed the senator. 
"I was getting a little bored with 
nothing happening." 

"Have you got control?" Jen- 
nings called to the major. 

"Can't tell yet. It's coming in too 
fast. I'm trying to slow it. We'll 
know in a minute." 

"You have it now," Professor 
Stein spoke up quietly. "It's slow- 
ing. It will be in the atmosphere 
soon. Slow it as much as you can." 

As surely as if he were sitting in 
its control room, Eddy slowed the 
ship, easing it down into the atmos- 
phere. The instruments recorded 
the results of his playing upon the 
bank of controls, as sound pouring 
from a musical instrument. 

"At the take-off point?" Jen- 
nings asked. "Can you land it 
there?" 

"Close to it," Major Eddy an- 
swered. "As close as I can." 

Now the ship was in visual sight 
again, and they watched its nose 
turn in the air, turn from a bullet 
hurtling earthward to a ship set- 
tling to the ground on its belly. 
Major Eddy was playing his instru- 
ment bank as if he were the soloist 
in a vast orchestra at the height of 
a crescendo forte. 

Jennings grabbed up the phone 
again. 

"Transportation!" he shouted. 



PROGRESS REPORT 



113 



"Already dispatched, sir," the 
operator at the other end respond- 
ed. 

Through the periscope slit, Jen- 
nings watched the ship settle light- 
ly downward to the ground, as 
though it were a breezeborne 
feather instead of its tons of metal. 
It seemed to settle itself, still, and 
become inanimate again. Major 
Eddy dropped his hands away from 
his instrument bank, an exhausted 
virtuoso. 

"My congratulations!" the sena- 
tor included all three men in his 
sweeping glance. "It was remark- 
able how you all had control at ev- 
ery instance. My progress report 
will certainly bear that notation." 

The three men looked at him, 
and realized there was no irony in 
his words, no sarcasm, no realiza- 
tion at all of what had truly hap- 
pened. 

"I can see a va-a-ast fleet of 
no-o-ble ships . . . ." the senator be- 
gan to orate. 

But the roar of the arriving jeep 
outside took his audience away 
from him. They made a dash for 
the bunker door, no longer inter- 
ested in the senator and his progress 
report. It was the progress report 
as revealed by the instruments on 
the ship which interested them 
more. 

The senator was close behind 
them as they piled out of the bunk- 
er door, and into the jeep, with 
Jennings unceremoniously pulling 
the driver from the wheel and tak- 
ing his place. 

Over the rough dirt road toward 
the launching site where the ship 
had come to rest, their minds were 
bemused and feverish, as they pro- 



jected ahead, trying to read in ad- 
vance what the instruments would 
reveal of that blank period. 

The senator's mind projected 
even farther ahead to the iieet of 
space ships he would own and con- 
trol. And he had been worried 
about some ignorant stupid voters! 
Stupid animals! How he despised 
them! What would he care about 
voters when he could be master of 
the spaceways to the stars? 

Jennings swerved the jeep off 
the dirt road and took out across 
the hummocks of sagebrush to the 
ship a few rods away. He hardly 
slacked speed, and in a swirl of 
dust pulled up to the side of the 
ship. Before it had even stopped, 
the men were piling out of the jeep, 
running toward the side of the ship. 

And stopped short. 



UNABLE TO BELIEVE their 
eyes, to absorb the incredible, 
they stared at the swinging open 
door in the side of the ship. Slowly 
they realized the iridescent purple 
glow around the doorframe, the 
rotted metal, disintegrating and 
falling to the dirt below. The im- 
plications of the tampering with 
the door held them unmoving. 
Only the senator had not caught it 
yet. Slower than they, now he was 
chugging up 'to where they had 
stopped, an elephantine amble. 

"Well, well, what's holding us 
up?" he panted irritably. 

Cautiously then, Jennings moved 
toward the open door. And as cau- 
tiously, Major Eddy and Professor 
Stein followed him. O'Noonan hung 
behind, sensing the caution, but not 
knowing the reason behind it. 



114 



MARK CLIFTON and ALEX APOSTOLIDES 



They entered the ship, wary of 
what might be lurking inside, what 
had burned open the door out 
there in space, what had been able 
to capture the ship, cut it off from 
its contact with controls, stop it in 
its headlong flight out into space, 
turn it, return it to their controls at 
precisely the same point and alti- 
tude. Wary, but they entered. 

At first glance, nothing seemed 
disturbed. The bulkhead leading to 
the power plant was still whole. 
But farther down the passage, the 
door leading to the control room 
where the instruments were housed 
also swung open. It, too, showed 
the iridescent purple disintegration 
of its metal frame. 

They hardly recognized the con- 
trol room. They had known it in- 
timately, had helped to build and 
fit it. They knew each weld, each 
nut and bolt. 

"The instruments are gone," the 
professor gasped in awe. 

It was true. As they crowded 
there in the doorway, they saw the 
gaping holes along the walls where 
the instruments had been inserted, 



one by one, each to tell its own 
story of conditions in space. 

The senator pushed himself into 
the room and looked about him. 
Even he could tell the room had 
been dismantled. 

"What kind of sabotage is this?" 
he exclaimed, and turned in anger 
toward Jennings. No one answered 
him. Jennings did not even bother 
to meet the accusing eyes. 

They walked down the narrow 
passage between the twisted frames 
where the instruments should have 
been. They came to the spot where 
the master integrator should have 
stood, the one which should have 
co-ordinated all the results of life- 
sustenance measurements, the one 
which was to give them their prog- 
ress report. 

There, too, was a gaping hole — 
but not without its message. Etched 
in the metal frame, in the same 
iridescent purple glow, were two 
words. Two enigmatic words to re- 
verberate throughout the world, 
burned in by some watcher — some 
keeper — some warden. 

"Not yet." 



■ THE END - 



THE NEXT ISSUE will contain another exceptionally fine line-up of 
stories. In addition to A CASE OF CONSCIENCE by James Blish, you'll 
find THY ROCKS AND RILLS by Robert E. Gilbert. It's a vision of the 
Manly Age in Earth's not-too-distant future, complete with legal duels, 
destructive "thrill parties", subjugated women, and such pleasant diver- 
sions as bullfights — but what happens when an intelligent mutant bull en- 
ters the picture is moderately world-shaking. W. W. Skupeldyckle presents 
a new approach to science fiction in THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE; 
James McKimmey, Jr., [the find of '53) tells about a PLANET OF 
DREAMS ; and there will be top-notch stories by Jerome Bixby, Philip K. 
Dick, and others. 



On earth and in space. Humanity was the bene- 
ficiary of Dornal's great experiments, for it sup- 
plied 



The GUINEA PIGS 



By S. A. Lombino 



AND WHICH two shall be the 
guinea pigs this time?" Krai 
asked, a touch of bitterness, tinging 
his voice. 

Dornal smiled a crooked smile, 
and stroked the carefully trimmed 
beard that clung to his fine jaw. His 
right eyebrow lifted ever so slightly, 
and his blue eyes twinkled with 
faint puzzlement. 

"Surely you're not concerned?" 
he asked Krai. 

"Excuse me," Krai said sarcas- 
tically, "I lost my head." 

He turned on his heel, presenting 
the broad back of his yellow tunic 
to Dornal, strode rapidly toward 
the .plasteel door at the far end of 
the chamber. 

"Just a moment!" Dornal's voice 
cracked like a whip. 

Krai turned to face his superior 
officer. "Yes?" he asked. 

"I'm not sure I like your atti- 
tude," Dornal said. The smile had 
vanished from his lips. He stood 
now, tall, proud, regal. The black- 
ness of his thick, flowing hair and 

1 



his short beard framed the perfect 
oval of his face. His brows were 
knitted in consternation, and the 
eyes that examined Krai were cold 
— and a little cruel. 

Krai met Dornal's eyes with his 
own and slowly said, "And I'm not 
sure I like yours either." 

Dornal's hand dropped auto- 
matically to the stun gun hanging 
in the plastic holster at his waist. 
He seemed to think better of it, 
looped his thumb into his belt in- 
stead. Again, he smiled charmingly, 
his teeth flashing in a white, even 
grin. 

"Krai," he said, "don't be a 
fool." 

"Damnit, I'm not being a fool!" 
Krai shouted. "I'm just getting fed 
up. God, how much longer is this 
going to go on, this indiscriminate 
use of human beings as — " 

"You're upset," Dornal said, not 
unkindly. "Borrow a ship, take a 
hop to the Moon. It'll do you good. 
Spend a little . . ." 

"I don't need a pleasure cruise 
15 



116 



S. A. LOMBINO 



to the Moon. It'd only remind me 
of the guinea pigs who made that 
trip possible." 

"All right then, Krai, what do 
you want?" 

"I want to resign," Krai said 
evenly. "I want to resign from your 
service. You can get a ne.w assistant. 
I want to leave your whole stinking 
government to you. You alone. I 
want you to handle all of your own 
rotten experiments. I want to . . ." 

"That's enough!" Dornal's stun 
gun was in his hand now. With a 
quick motion of his other hand, 
Domal flicked the potency lever on 
the gun. Krai knew it was up full 
now, and Dornal would shoot to 
kill. 

"Go on," he said. "Squeeze the 
trigger." 

"I hope you're not daring me, 
Krai." Dornal's voice was cold. 

Krai suddenly spread his arms in 
despair. "Dornal, look, there are 
other ways. Man had other ways 
before you . . . before we began to 
tamper. Science was beginning to 
solve its own problems. It was just 
a matter of ..." 

"It was a matter of decadence," 
Dornal interrupted. "Before I be- 
came Chief, science was floundering 
about in its own offal. Who cured 
cancer? Who defeated polio? Who 
reached the Moon? And Mars? 
Venus? Who, Krai, who?" 

"Do you think you did? Do you 
think for one minute it was you, 
Dornal?" 

"Yes," Dornal answered proudly. 
"It was, Krai. It was I who made 
these things possible. Before me, 
there was stupidity and blind senti- 
ment. They depended on volun- 
teers, and when they had no 



volunteers they had to fumble 
around with animals. By conscrip- 
tion of human beings these wonder- 
ful things have been made possible. 
Now, when we are on the verge of 
another great experiment, you show 
your chicken heart!" 

"Another experiment that will 
kill more people," Krai added. 

"Perhaps," Dornal admitted. 
"Perhaps. It doesn't matter. Per- 
haps they'll be successful the first 
time, and then no one would be 
lost." 

Krai spat in disgust. "Did they 
cure cancer the first time? How 
many humans did you murder to 
discover the cause of cancer?" 

"And how many did we save by 
discovering the cause and bringing 
about a cure?" 

"Don't say 'we'; it was all your 
doing." 

"On the contrary," Dornal said. 
"It was our doing." 

"How many space ships did you 
send out into the blackness before 
we reached the Moon?" Krai per- 
sisted. "And then Mars and Venus? 
How many lives did you throw 
away?" 

"I must remind you," Dornal 
said softly, "that I rule this uni- 
verse. You are only my assistant, a 
position granted by my grace. I do 
what is best for the population." 

"And I help," Krai said. 

"Yes. You help." 

"Who are you to say that so 
many people must die to make 
things easier for those who survive 
them? No one has that power, Dor- 
nal. No one but . . ." 

"God," Dornal finished. "No one 
but God." 

Krai's lips tightened across his 



THE GUINEA PIGS 



117 



face. He turned to go. 

"I wasn't aware I'd dismissed 
you," Dornal snapped. 

Krai turned to face Dornal. 
"Sir?" he asked. 

"The new ship leaves tomorrow 
at oh-two-hundred. I'U need only 
two men to man her. Good men, 
Krai. This isn't going to be the 
usual hop. We're reaching for the 
stars this time — ^we're going to ex- 
plore a new universe. Once we 
break the chains that bind us to our 
own solar system, nothing can stop 
us. Nothing!" 

"You'll have your two men, sir," 
Krai said. "Will that be all, sir?" 

"Dismissed," Dornal said. He 
slipped his stun gun back into its 
holster as Krai opened the plasteel 
door and left the chamber. 



THE ENORMOUS ship stood 
on spidery legs, nose pointed 
skyward. The sand spread out be- 
neath it, bathed in the bluish light 
of the stars. Dornal glanced up- 
wards, his eyes darting from one 
pinpoint of light to the next. The 
slow smile crossed his face again, 
and his fingers ran smoothly 
through his short, immaculate 
beard. 

Impatiently, he glanced at his 
wrist-chron. The ship was set for 
blastoff at oh-two-hundred. It was 
now oh-one-fifty and there was still 
no sign of Krai. 

From the control tower, a loud- 
speaker blared, "Red minus five. 
Red minus five." 

The ground car screeched onto 
the desert sand, and Krai stepped 
out, waiting for the two young men 
to follow him. Together, they took 



long strides across the sand to where 
Dornal was standing. 

"I knew you wouldn't fail me," 
he said to Krai. 

"Two more or less," Krai 
shrugged. "What's the difference 
now?" 

"Exactly," Dornal agreed. "Two 
more or less." 

"Red minus three," the speaker 
blared. "Red minus three." 

"We'd better get aboard and 
show the men the ship, sir," Krai 
said. "They'll be blasting off in 
eight minutes." 

"Yes, yes," Dornal said. He 
glanced upwards at the stars as he 
mounted the ladder to the nose 
turret. Krai followed Dornal, but 
not too closely. Behind him were 
the two chosen men. They were 
strangely silent, a little pale. 

"Red minus one" the speaker 
announced. 

With a powerful backward 
thrust, Krai kicked the man behind 
him. There was a short grunt of 
surprise, as the first man tumbled 
backwards, down the ladder, carry- 
ing the second man with him. They 
rolled over in the sand as Krai raced 
up the remaining rungs and into 
the turret. 

"Red condition," the speaker 
warned. "Green minus five." 

Krai snapped the hatch shut and 
twisted the lock wheel. Dornal was 
peering up out of the blister, his 
back to Krai. "Soon it will all be 
mine," he said, scanning the uni- 
verse. 

"Yes," Krai agreed. 

Somewhere below, the powerful 
turbo-jets hummed into action, 
building power. The sound jostled 
Dornal. He turned to face Krai. 



ITS 



S. A. LOMBINO 



"Green minus three" the speaker 
announced. 

Krai felt the ship tremble with 
the increasing power of the jets. In 
less than three minutes, the ship 
would be hurled into space, hurled 
into unknown universes. A look of 
surprise crossed Dornal's face as he 
stared around the cabin. "Where 
are the pilots? What's . . ." 

He noticed the strained look on 
Krai's face then. 

"Green minus two. Standby for 
blastoff." 

"What are you . . . ?" 

"What's two more or less?" Krai 



shouted. Dornal reached for the 
space lock, fear marking his face. 

The desert sands began to glow 
red and yellow as the jets spewed 
flame into the darkness. 

"Green minus one." 

Dornal clawed at the lock wheel 
frantically. Krai smashed his fist 
into Dornal's hysterical features, 
and the other man crumpled to the 
deck. 

In another second, the force of 
acceleration threw Krai down un- 
conscious beside the other man. Si- 
lently, the ship streaked for the 
stars. 



THE END 



IRRESISTIB.LE WEAPON 

(Continued from page 31 ) 



accuracy, the colonel put the ship 
into subspace drive. 

Korman leaned back at the con- 
clusion of the brief activity on his 
control board, and met Gibson's 
pop-eyed stare. 

"Interesting, the things worth 
knowing," he commented. "How to 
make a weapon, for instance, or 
whether your enemy has it yet." 

He almost smiled at his prison- 
er's expression. 

"Or even better: knowing ex- 
actly how far your enemy has pro- 
gressed and how fast he can con- 
tinue, whether to stop him im- 
mediately or whether you can re- 
main a step ahead." 

"B-but — if both sides are irre- 
sistible . . ." Gibson stammered. 

Korman examined him con- 
temptuously. 



"No irresistible weapon exists, or 
ever will!" he declared. "Only an 
irresistible process — the transmis- 
sion of secrets! You are living proof 
that no safeguards can defend 
against that." 

He savored Gibson's silent dis- 
comfort. 

"I am sure you know how far 
and how fast the Centaurian scien- 
tists will go, Gibson, since I guided 
you to every laboratory in that 
plant. Your memory may require 
some painful jogging when we 
reach the Solar System; but re- 
member you shall!" 

"But you — you were ordered 
to . . ." 

"You didn't think I was a Cen- 
taurian, did you?" sneered Kor- 
man. "After I just explained to you 
what is really irresistible?" 



THE END 



THE 



COMETH 



TO BE OR NOT TO BE 

Dear Friends: 

I was introduced to IP with the 
January 1953 issue and was very 
pleasantly surprised. I am tempted 
to give IF the edge over 
ASTOUNDING for the highest 
level of intelligence in the science 
fiction field, but you realize how 
unfair this would be to John 
Campbell and/or the publishers of 
ASTOUNDING, inasmuch as my 
judgment would be based on only 
one issue of IF. I must read at 
least 60 or 70 issues of IF, before 
I come to so momentous a decision. 
Well, at least two or three issues, 
anyway. 

My favorite story in the January 
issue was Walter Miller's CHECK 
AND CHECKMATE. Not only 
was it a good story with an un- 
usual twist, but I think it took 
courage to write and courage to 
publish it. I admire and respect all 
concerned for it. 

I also liked Rog Phillips' YE OF 
LITTLE FAITH, but was left 
somewhat baffled as to what Rog 
was trying to tell. Is he "fer or 
agin" belief (faith) ? The title and 

1 



the structure of the story seem to 
imply that he's "fer," but I got the 
distinct impression that he is a 
whopping logician with his tongue 
in his cheek. 

Although Rog does not elabo- 
rate on Martin Grant's theory, I 
think I know one answer (and I 
imagine there is room for more) to 
the enigmatic disappearances. To 
me, it is a very "obvious further 
step" in logic, as Rog makes Grant 
suspect there "must" be. 

Martin Grant's theory "contains 
within itself the proof that the uni- 
verse must, by logical necessity, be 
constructed according to said 
theory. But observation and experi- 
ence say this is not true." Martin 
Grant conjectures, "Either the uni- 
verse is not constructed acording 
to logical necessity, or, the observ- 
able universe is not the universe." 

Now, assuming that Grant's 
theory was that the universe is 
an illusion, it follows (if I ac- 
cept this theory) that MY 
OWN EXISTENCE is part of 
that very same illusion! Illu- 
sion and existence become syn- 
onymous. The moment "I" become 
, "aware" of this "fact," pop goes 
the illusion AND, therefore, my ex- 
istence. The "logical necessity" is, 
logically, the simultaneity of the 
illusion-existence of universe and 
self. To be or not to be applies to 
the sum total. It is indivisible. 
Simple. 

Grant's statement, "observation 
and experience says this is not true" 
was correct prior to his own disap- 
pearance, but to him alone. It re- 
mained correct to each individual 
only to the point of the individual's 
19 



120 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



disappearance. Naturally, Grant's 
conjectures are meaningless. 

— George Fedak 
Uniondale, N. Y. 

We like you, Mr. Fedak, and want 
you to read at least 60 or 70 issues 
of IF. Please don't get too involved 
in this puzzle and disappear your- 
self! 



THE PLANETS, YES 

Dear Editor: 

You state that space travel will 
not appear before the year 2000. 
That's all well and good, but then 
you go on to say that man has to 
have the driving force of animal 
survival before he leaves the earth. 
You then state that there is still 
millions of inhabitable miles be- 
fore the earth will be overcrowded. 
By your own reasoning you seem 
to think the only motivation for 
man to leave earth, is that of his 
own survival. You are absolutely 
wrong. 

An overcrowded America was 
not the reason that explorers went 
into the deepest parts of Africa, 
into the unexplored sections of the 
Amazon, into forbidden Tibet. 

The three basic motives that will 
make man venture into space are 
Adventure, Curiosity and a Chal- 
lenge. Adventure and Curiosity are 
self explanatory. I'll explain the 
third and most important motive, a 
Challenge. 

The challenge of going where 
no other human has ever been be- 
fore, the challenge of standing on 
an alien planet where no other hu- 
man foot has ever trod, the chal- 



lenge of meeting and establishing 
contact with alien life forms, these 
challenges and many more will 
drive man on to the planets and 
finally to the stars. 

Adventure, Curiosity, and the 
Challenge will send man out into 
space, not survival. 

— Lyle Kessler 
Philadelphia, Pa. 

A nice, idealistic concept — and the 
sort of idea that makes science fic- 
tion possible, for which we're 
thankful! But some challenges do 
go unanswered. Africa, the Ama- 
zon, Tibet presented purely practi- 
cal motives too, and besides could 
be attacked by individuals ; space 
is going to take organization and 
an awful lot of money. But we'll 
make it yet! 



LOST: FIVE YEARS 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

YE OF LITTLE FAITH by 

Rog Phillips was tops. 

However, his factual research 
was lacking. On page 50, Rog 
(Curt) states, "Your father can't 
be declared legally, ah, departed 
for two years." (The underscore is 
mine.) Being an ex-insurance 
man for many long years, indirect- 
ly connected with legal adjustments 
and actuarial departments, I am 
positive that vanished persons are 
not declared legally dead until sev- 
en years have passed. 

This factual error might detract 
reader interest with many fantasy 
fans and this, I know, Rog Phillips 
would not want done. 

—Elmer R. Kirk 



VENUS is covered by a heavy blanket of clouds which obscures the planet's 
surface, making conditions there a matter for speculation. No water vapor 
or oxygen can be detected in Venus' atmosphere, but there is an abun- 
dance of carbon dioxide. The spaceship shown is traveling in a power-off 
attitude, but will make a tail-first landing under power — if it finds anything 
to land on! (Drawings by Ed Valigursky)